Pregnancy is shrinking. The average American pregnancy has shortened from 40 weeks to 39; nearly 10 percent of babies are now born at 34 to 36 weeks. Reasons: 1) Moms are older or fatter, with more complications. 2) More assisted fertility is causing more twins. 3) Technology allows earlier detection of trouble. 4) Doctors are more confident that technology can nurse preemies to health. 5) Doctors fear lawsuits if they don't advise you to deliver early. 6) Moms are choosing when to deliver. Arguments for the trend: 1) Fewer stillbirths. 2) Lower risk to moms. 3) Don't kid yourself that the baby is always safer in the womb. Arguments against it: 1) Late preemies face more long-term health and developmental problems than full-term kids. 2) We'll all have to pick up the tab. 3) Moms' schedules and doctors' fear of lawsuits are lousy reasons to pull the plug early. (For Human Nature's take on artificial wombs, click here.)
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