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Tita said the researchers didn't know the reasons behind the chosen delivery dates. They speculated that some mothers might want to deliver as soon as the fetus reaches full term, or an earlier time may have been more convenient for the mother or doctor.
Dr. Michael Greene, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, noted the research showed that there's even an increased risk of complications in the last few days before the 39th week. That's something most doctors wouldn't suspect, he said.
"I generally try to wait to 39 weeks, although I confess that I'm as guilty as anybody else with a busy practice and scheduling being what it is," said Greene, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal. "I really hadn't thought much about it until now."
The study only looked at live births, and didn't account for the small risk of the fetus dying while waiting to reach 39 weeks, Greene said. That risk has been estimated up to 1 in 1,000, he said.
Thorp's patient in Chapel Hill, Shannon Eubanks, said she was glad that she held off a few days to reach the 39-week threshold before having her daughter, Kathleen Conley Eubanks. Her first child, 2-year-old Charlie, was born by C-section.
"It was hard to wait," said Eubanks, business manager of the political science department at the university. "I was very over being pregnant and ready to get the show on the road."
And she had another reason for wanting to deliver last week.
As an accountant, "It just killed me not to have this kid in 2008" to get the tax deduction, Eubanks said hours after delivering.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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