What Are the Common Concerns and What to Expect for Premature Birth
Pregnancies usually last for about 37 – 40 weeks before your baby is born. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. That’s why learning about premature baby development is a must!
Whether or not it’s your first time as a parent, it pays to be prepared if ever your baby decides to be born early.
Prematurity is a huge concern for parents since most premature babies are at a higher risk of contracting medical problems.
That’s not at all surprising since their physical strength weaker than babies born right on time. A premature baby hasn’t developed his body enough yet.
But that doesn’t mean premature babies can’t be healthy! They just need extra attention, care, and cuddles that you can give.
After reading this article, you will know:
- What prematurity means
- What causes prematurity in pregnancies
- How prematurity can affect your baby
- Basic facts about premature babies
- And many more
How to Read this Article
If you are a new parent:
- Learn why prematurity sometimes happens
- Know more to be readier for all possibilities when your baby arrives
If you are an experienced parent:
- Re-learn what you know about prematurity
- Know more about the premature babies
If you are a friend of someone who has a baby:
- Obtain the facts to help calm your friend down
- Share what you know to help take care of the new baby
If you just want to gather information about premature baby development:
- Read on to get the facts straight and know more about prematurity, how to take care of premature babies, and many more!
What is a Preemie Baby?
So, what does premature mean? And what is a preemie baby?
To answer you in the simplest of terms, the term ‘premature’ means ‘too early.’ A preemie baby, therefore, is a child born before your pregnancy can be considered full-term.
Full-term babies are born within 37 weeks to 42 weeks. A premature baby is born less than 37 weeks.
Premature babies, especially those born very early, often have complicated medical problems. Typically, complications of prematurity vary. But the earlier your baby is born, the higher the risk of complications. – Mayo Clinic
How healthy and strong your baby is will depend on how many weeks early he is. Premature birth doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will automatically be weak.
Some babies are ready for the outside world earlier than others. Some will require a little bit more growing up before they catch up with other babies.
Nevertheless, reading a guide or two about premature development can help you as parents with how to take care of your baby in the upcoming crucial months.
However, never take any given guide on the internet and practice it wholeheartedly. Always confirm with your pediatrician if you are in doubt.
If you want to know about the possible applications, programs, toys, and entertainment that can aid you in your baby’s development, check out these articles – Baby Development Toys and Baby Development App.
So, in this article, we’ll explore:
- What causes premature birth?
- Why are babies born premature?
- When is a baby considered premature?
- When can premature babies see?
- Premature baby weight
What Causes Premature Birth?
As parents, of course, you will have many questions regarding prematurity and how it can affect your premature infant’s health.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any apparent reason why some babies are born earlier than others. But it can help to know some of the risk factors that may lead to premature birth.
Some of these include:
- A previous premature birth
- Vices like smoking and/or recreational drugs
- Pregnancy with multiple babies (twins and more)
- Chronic conditions (diabetes, heart conditions, etcetera)
- Stressful major events
- And many more
Because your baby’s body isn’t fully developed yet, being born early will affect his health as well.
Some babies require a stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to help them grow stronger and live on their own.
Some might develop disabilities or developmental impairments as well. A chat with your pediatrician or family doctor can help you learn the next steps needed.
There can be cases that preemie milestones and preemie development can be slower than babies born full-term. You don’t have to worry too much, though. It’s just slower.
Your baby is just taking his time to catch up with the others. Plus, even full-term babies can sometimes develop at a slower pace than average.
Why are Babies Born Premature?
Like what was stated above, the actual causes of premature birth isn’t that simple to determine. There are many factors at play that can cause you to give birth earlier.
But surely, premature births aren’t that common right?
Unfortunately, more and more babies are being born prematurely today. About 11% of births in the US annually occur prematurely.
In a time where medical advances are happening, professionals are getting increasingly confused as to why prematurity is on the rise when infant mortality is decreasing, and women’s health is improving.
One reason medical professionals think that is causing prematurity is reproductive advancements like in vitro fertilization.
Such practices usually result in pregnancies with multiples (twins, triplets, etcetera). As stated above, this can also induce preterm deliveries.
However, even with explanations in place, doctors have yet to successfully stop the labor triggers that happen to make women give birth before the allotted 37 weeks.
When is A Baby Considered Premature?
Your baby is considered a preterm baby when he is born before 37 weeks.
Prematurity is when a pregnancy lasts less than 37 weeks; full-term infants are born 37 to 42 weeks after the mother’s last menstrual period (LMP). – KidsHealth
Not all preterm babies are weak, and some will develop normally as if they were born full-term. This usually depends on how near they were born to the 37th-week mark.
Most babies born before or at 25 weeks usually need a more extended stay in NICU since they would not have the strength to go home with you just yet.
Babies born at 35th or 36th weeks might be stronger, and might be able to go home with you.
Prominent appearance of pre-term
Just so you won’t be surprised, some preterm babies will show symptoms of prematurity. One feature you might notice at once will be your baby’s size.
He will most likely be smaller than a full-term baby. Because of this, his head will be disproportionately big to the other parts of his body.
Another thing that most preterm babies have in common is their thin, shallow appearance. Your baby hasn’t developed adequate fat storage yet.
One reason why your baby might need to stay in NICU for a while is that he might be having a hard time breathing. He might need some help before he can do it on his own.
The same goes for his lack of swallowing and sucking reflexes. This can hinder you from feeding him properly at first.
But don’t worry! Your OB-GYN and Pediatrician will help you every step of the way.
If you want to learn more about the different types of development your baby will undergo in the near future, head on over these articles – Baby Speech Development, Baby Brain Development and Baby Language Development.
When Can Premature Babies See?
Just to give you a heads up, premature babies will need some time before they can catch up with other babies.
Even if a preemie is technically born earlier, he will be spending those extra time getting stronger. Therefore, it’s not surprising that he won’t develop like other babies.
Premature babies are given an ‘adjusted age.’ For example, what a normal 2-month-old baby may not be done by a preemie until the age of 4 months. That’s fine!
That’s why you should observe your baby’s physical developments carefully, especially when it comes to his eyes and ears.
Your baby will have a higher risk of getting a sight or hearing problem. One sight problem to look into is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).
ROP can be caused by the excessive oxygen that your baby might encounter. If he were still in the womb, oxygen would be managed for him. But that’s not the case in the outside world.
Too much oxygen can either impede your baby’s retina from fully developing or in worst cases, cause the retina to detach completely which can lead to blindness.
Most of the time ROP heals without treatment but check with a professional if any other steps are needed.
If you want to learn more about these types of development that your baby will encounter (albeit later than full-term babies), then read this article – Baby Eye Development.
Learn more about your baby’s visual development through this video:
Premature Baby Weight
If a baby was born prior to his complete physical development, it’s no surprise if he appears to be smaller and lighter than the average baby.
Premature baby weight is definitely a lot less heavy than normal baby weight.
So don’t be surprised if your little one weighs significantly lighter than you expect. Boys weigh a little bit more than girls and are a lot bigger as well.
To help you manage your expectations, here are the average weights of babies born prematurely:
Approximately 35 weeks – 5 lbs. 8 oz.
Approximately 32 weeks – 3 lbs. 15.5oz.
Approximately 28 weeks – 2 lbs. 6.8oz.
Approximately 24 weeks – 1 lb. 6.9oz.
Approximately 35 weeks – 5 lbs. 4.7oz.
Approximately 32 weeks – 3 lbs. 12 oz.
Approximately 28 weeks – 2 lbs. 3.3 oz.
Approximately 24 weeks – 1lb. 5.2oz.
Of course, these are only rough estimations of what premature babies may weigh. This can drastically change depending on how weak or strong your baby is already at the time of his birth.
Regardless, the main thing to do if you’re handling premature baby development is to observe and wait.
It also pays to be extra vigilant. After all, your precious bundle of joy will need extra help and attention to grow stronger and better.
If you’re still feeling anxious, it’s best to talk to your OB-GYN, family doctor, or a pediatrician. They may have more information that can help ease your worries a bit.