Caring for a Premature Baby: What Parents Need to Know
- Premature birth occurs in about 11 to 13 percent of pregnancies in the US.
- Almost 60 percent of twins, triplets, and other multiple deliveries result in preterm births.
- A birth is considered "preterm" when a child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. Other categories of preterm birth include late preterm (34?36 weeks), moderately preterm (32?36 weeks), and very preterm (less than 32 weeks).
It is important to recognize that preterm deliveries, even if late preterm, should never be done for the convenience of the mother or obstetrician. Research has shown that late preterm babies have significantly greater risk for negative outcomes, and all efforts should be made to have babies reach full term. See Let Baby Set the Delivery Date: Wait until 39 Weeks if You Can.
Characteristics of Babies Born Premature
If your baby is born prematurely, she may neither look nor behave like a full-term infant. While the average full-term baby weighs about 7 pounds (3.17 kg) at birth, a premature newborn might weigh 5 pounds (2.26 kg) or even considerably less. But thanks to medical advances, children born after twenty-eight weeks of pregnancy, and weighing more than 2 pounds 3 ounces (1 kg), have almost a full chance of survival; eight out of ten of those born after the thirtieth week have minimal long-term health or developmental problems, while those preterm babies born before twenty-eight weeks have more complications, and require intensive treatment and support in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).