The list of things that can go wrong when medical error features in a baby’s delivery in New Jersey or elsewhere is both sobering and lengthy. Birth injury can result from a number of negligent medical acts or omissions during delivery, and outcomes such as cerebral palsy, fetal asphyxia, hospital-induced infections and other conditions can have permanent adverse effects.

One catalyst that can centrally underlie birth complications and sub-optimal outcomes is an obstetrician’s or medical team’s improper assessment of the timing aspects relating to pregnancy. At its core, this means making a proper determination of how far along a baby is inside the mother’s womb.

The medical industry often uses the phrase “term pregnancy” to describe the period at which a baby is deemed to have proceeded through a full-term gestation period. As noted in a recent New York Times article, there is far from uniform consensus among doctors across the country concerning when a baby can be regarded as “term.” This has implications for decisions about pregnancy intervention, such as induced labor or C-section deliveries.

Put another way: One doctor might view a cesarean section as a viable or flatly necessary intervention at a gestation time (measured in weeks) that another delivering physician would view as too early or perhaps too late.

As stated in the Times article, “A pregnancy a week short or a week longer than full term can notably affect a child’s health.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recently stepped in with new recommendations concerning term pregnancy, specifically definitions that are more precise than previous guidelines for spelling out term delivery periods (e.g., early-term versus late-term deliveries).

The hope is that the definitions will have all concerned parties “speaking about the same thing,” says one participant in the tweaking process, and allow for more consistency in intervention-related determinations across the country.

Source: New York Times, “Rethinking ‘term pregnancy’,” Jane E. Brody, Nov. 11, 2013