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Risk of Stillbirth Increases in Pregnancies Past 37 Weeks

Neonatal mortality steady from 38 to 41 weeks gestational age, significantly higher at 42 weeks

pregnant woman

MONDAY, July 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- The risk for stillbirth increases the longer a pregnancy continues past 37 weeks of gestation, according to a meta-analysis published online July 2 in PLOS Medicine.

Javaid Muglu, M.D., from the University Hospital Lewisham in London, and colleagues searched major electronic databases for studies on term pregnancies that included weekly totals of stillbirths or neonatal deaths. Thirteen studies, providing data on 15 million pregnancies and 17,830 stillbirths, were included in their analysis.

The researchers found that the risk for stillbirth increased with gestational age, from 0.11 stillbirths per 1,000 pregnancies at 37 weeks to 3.18 stillbirths per 1,000 pregnancies at 42 weeks. From 40 to 41 weeks, there was a 64 percent increase in the risk for stillbirth. Neonatal mortality remained steady in babies born from 38 to 41 weeks, but was significantly higher for babies born at 42 weeks compared with those born at 41 weeks.

"Any mother considering prolongation of pregnancy beyond 37 weeks should be informed of the additional small, but significantly increased, risk of stillbirth with advancing gestation," the authors write. "There is a need to assess the acceptability of early delivery at term to parents and health care providers to avoid the small risk of stillbirth."

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