There was a time when babies born at 37 weeks were considered exactly the same as a baby born at full term or even one born well past the due date, at 41 or 42 weeks. However, new research has shown that babies who are born at 37 weeks might have serious health problems or complications thanks to their early exit from the womb.

Babies born at 37 weeks are considered almost full term. However, “almost” is the key word to remember, as there could be complications for babies born at this stage.

Babies Born at 37 Weeks

Babies born at 37 weeks are definitely not premature, but they are not entirely mature, either. Early term babies are considered those born between 37 weeks and 38 weeks, 6 days. Full term babies are any that are born after 39 weeks, while late term babies are born after 41 weeks gestation.

What Are They Like?

At 37 weeks, your baby should weigh just over six pounds and measure about 19 inches in length. Your baby might also have a full head of hair, though keep in mind that some babies are born completely bald! Your baby is cradled by your pelvis, probably with his or her head down, getting ready for birth. This also creates much more room for the legs, which you can feel kicking you all the time now.

Are There Any Risks?

Babies born at 37 weeks are at risk for several complications. The biggest problem is lung maturity – at this stage, some babies will have trouble getting enough oxygen or breathing on their own, and might require medical intervention. Other problems include an increased risk of jaundice, more difficulty with feeding, digestive difficulties, and perhaps even more serious issues. All of these risks can be managed, usually quite effectively, with great care from nurses and doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Most babies who are born at 37 weeks will be perfectly okay in the long run.

During a normal, healthy pregnancy, mothers and their doctors should strive to deliver the child at no less than 39 weeks. There are caveats to this, of course, such as the woman whose water breaks early, those who go into labor earlier than their due date, or medical conditions that might hurt the mother or baby if the child is left in the womb any longer, such as issues with preeclampsia.

What About Twin Babies?

If a woman is pregnant with twins, babies born at 37 weeks are much more likely. In fact, research says that up to 50% of twin pregnancies will be delivered prematurely, or before the 37 week mark. Twins who are born at 37 weeks might be smaller than singleton babies born at the same stage, and they might have more serious problem. However, the rate of healthy babies born at 37 weeks – even if they are twins – has risen dramatically over the years.

What Others Have Experienced

Here are some stories from women who have gone through delivering babies born at 37 weeks. Fortunately, there are many success stories out there.

“My baby was born right at 37 weeks. He was okay at first, but then the nurses told me he was having trouble regulating his body temperature. Apparently this is normal with babies who are born at 37 weeks or earlier. They put him in a warming bed that kept him very comfortable, and they checked his temperature often. He was okay by the next morning, and they brought him to me. He was completely fine after that!”

“My baby was born at 37 weeks and had a lot of difficulty with breastfeeding. Babies that small might not like to breastfeed because it takes so much energy. I wound up pumping breastmilk for my baby, and eventually she was able to take milk from the breast. It did take a bit of patience and learning on her part, though.”

“The doctor told me all sorts of horror stories about babies born at 37 weeks or earlier, but when my baby was born at 37 weeks on the dot, there were no issues at all. In fact, my son was thriving and happy from the moment we met each other in the hospital!”

“My twins were born at 37 weeks and suffered no problems at all. My doctor told me that they often consider 37 weeks to be full term for twins, because they often come so early – and because there is so little room in there for the babies to move around!”

“My baby was born at 37 weeks and went to the NICU almost immediately for problems with jaundice. He stayed there for four days. It was a long time to wait to take him home, but he hasn’t had a single problem since. Not even a cold!”

“My doctor wanted to induce me early because I was developing preeclampsia. They gave me steroid shots at 35 weeks to increase the lung maturity, and my health managed to stay good until right at 37 weeks, when we had to deliver. The shots must have done their job because he came out of me fully cooked and ready to take on the world!”