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Many Women Confused About Healthy Length of Gestation

Survey finds only a quarter of women who just had babies knew the correct length of 'full term'

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A survey of women who recently had babies suggests that many women are confused about the length of gestation that constitutes a full-term pregnancy, and what gestation period is safe for delivery, according to a study in the December issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Robert L. Goldenberg, M.D., of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues surveyed a sample of 650 women who had recently given birth to ask about their understanding of the term "full term," and about the safety concerns of delivery at various gestational stages.

The researchers found that only 25.2 percent of women surveyed said full term occurred at 39 to 40 weeks' gestation (39 weeks is the minimum gestation that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends for elective deliveries). Twenty-four percent of women thought that 34 to 36 weeks of gestation was full term, and 50.8 percent said 37 to 38 weeks. Asked about the earliest gestational age that it is safe to deliver the baby (excluding situations in which medical complications necessitate early delivery), 51.7 percent said 34 to 36 weeks, and 40.7 percent said 37 to 38 weeks, while only 7.6 percent said 39 to 40 weeks.

"With the trend of an increased patient role in medical decision-making, ensuring that women understand the implications of the timing of delivery may be an important component of interventions to reduce the number of elective or semi-elective late preterm and early term deliveries," the authors write.

Two of the authors are employees of UnitedHealthcare, while a third chairs the UnitedHealthcare Women's Health Advisory Committee and receives an honorarium.

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