Premature Baby

Definition - What does Premature Baby mean?

A premature baby is one that is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, 3 or more weeks before full-term. Depending on their level of prematurity, the baby can experience a wide range of short- and long-term medical complications. There are many potential causes of delivering a baby prematurely, including IVF, pregnancy with twins or triplets (or more), and having previously had multiple miscarriages.

FertilitySmarts explains Premature Baby

Around 1 in 10 babies born in the United States is premature. Nearly all premature babies will need some kind of medical care after they are born; the more premature they are, the more likely they will need some kind of medical support. A premature baby hasn’t been in the uterus long enough to allow its systems to develop completely. While in the uterus, the baby had its nutrients and oxygen requirements fulfilled by the placenta and its connection to the mother’s systems. In addition, the baby’s temperature was regulated and it was protected from physical contact. However, outside the uterus, none of these advantages exist naturally and, thus, the baby needs medical help.

There are varying degrees of prematurity. Late premature babies are born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy (when most premature births occur), moderately premature babies are born between 32 and 34 weeks, very premature babies are born at less than 32 weeks, and extremely premature babies are born at or before 25 weeks pregnancy. Late premature babies usually don’t require much medical assistance and are not at much risk for medical complications. Extremely premature babies, however, need intensive care after they are born and are at risk for major complications, or may not survive at all.

Upon delivery, medical professionals watch for any signs and symptoms that the baby is premature (assuming they aren’t already aware, based on due date). Small size with an overly large head, sharp features and bodies covered in fine hair, low body temperature, and difficulty breathing or feeding are all warning signs that the baby might be premature.

A premature baby is at risk for many different short- and long-term complications. The extent of these complications is linked to the degree to which they are premature. These complications can include problems with breathing, the heart, brain bleeds, lack of temperature control, digestive system issues, anemia, jaundice, metabolism problems, infections, cerebral palsy, impaired mental skills, vision, hearing, and dental problems, behavioral and psychological problems, chronic health issues, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

After delivery, a premature baby will be taken to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This unit provides an atmosphere that minimizes the baby’s stress by supplying warmth, nourishment, and security, so the baby can grow and develop properly. Staff in the NICU are specially trained to deal with the complications of sick and premature babies and are experienced in taking excellent care of premature newborns.

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