Premature Birth Overview

Posted Friday, November 25, 2016

Did You Know? 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely in the U.S.

15 Million Babies Are Born Prematurely Each Year  

African American Women Experience the Highest Rate of Prematurity

A birth taking place more than three weeks before the due date is considered a premature birth. Due to the baby having less time to develop in utero, complications can occur with premature births. 

How can premature births be prevented? What can a patient expect with prematurity? Please read the following guide to find the answers to these questions. 

01 | Definition

Premature birth takes place before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy; whereas a normal pregnancy lasts approximately 40 weeks. There are different levels of preterm, or premature birth:

  • Late preterm – 34-36 weeks of pregnancy
  • Moderately preterm – 32-34 weeks of pregnancy
  • Very preterm – less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
  • Extremely preterm – at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy

02 | Risk Factors

Although the cause of prematurity cannot always be determined, there are factors that increase your risk for premature birth, including:

  • Previous premature birth
  • Less than six months between pregnancies
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Conception through in vitro fertilization
  • Tobacco or drug use during pregnancy
  • Hypertension and/or diabetes
  • Stress during pregnancy
  • Previous miscarriage or abortion
  • Physical injury/trauma during pregnancy
  • Poor nutrition, being overweight or underweight before and during pregnancy
  • Certain infections, such as infection of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract

03 | Complications

The more premature the baby is, the more complications it is likely to experience. Complications of premature birth may include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Hypotension and PDA (patent ductus arteriosus)
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Hypothermia
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis)
  • Anemia and Jaundice
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Immune system problems

Long-term complications may also occur. To learn more about premature birth and potential long-term complications, please visit:  

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