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Fetal Viability

Definition - What does Fetal Viability mean?

Fetal viability refers to the potential of a prematurely born fetus (developing baby) to survive outside the uterus after birth. The viability of a fetus means having reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the viability of the fetus is possible after 20 weeks of fetal life. However, there is no worldwide accepted gestational age at present that defines viability, perhaps because the biomedical and technological aspects that regulate viability vary widely in different parts of the world.

FertilitySmarts explains Fetal Viability

Several factors impact fetal viability. The three most remarkable are gestational age (how far along a woman is in her pregnancy), baby’s weight, and fetal organ maturity. Doctors use gestational age as a guide to making decisions about resuscitation (life-support system) because this factor strongly influences the outcome.

The currently agreed limit of viability is 22 to 25 weeks of pregnancy. With aggressive intervention, most babies born at 26 weeks and above have higher odds of survival, while all but none below 22 weeks will survive. However, the risk of severe disabilities still remains high at 26 weeks. Most pediatricians, in general practice, would not offer intensive care at 23 weeks, but would from 26 weeks. Usually, premature babies born closer to term (37 weeks) fare better than those born earlier.

The resuscitation for infants born between 24 and 25 weeks of gestation (pregnancy) falls within the 'grey zone.' This is because the outcomes of medical treatment for these babies are uncertain, and therefore parents are given the option to choose between resuscitation and supportive care options.

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