About Premature Birth and its effects
A preterm birth is one that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A full term pregnancy should be 40 weeks.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & March of Dimes, the premature birth rate in the U.S. was 9.6% in 2014, or almost 1 in 10 pregnancies—one of the highest rates in the world.1,2
Babies born prematurely can require significant time in the hospital, primarily in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), to compensate for development that did not occur in the womb. Babies that survive premature birth may face immediate- and long-term health challenges, including cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairment, learning disabilities, and other chronic conditions. They are also more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that every week of gestation matters for the health of babies. The last few weeks of pregnancy—37-40 weeks— allow a baby’s brain and lungs to more fully mature. Babies born between 39 weeks 0 days and 40 weeks 6 days of pregnancy have the best health outcomes, compared with babies born before or after this period.3
Even babies born closer to ‘term’, called ‘late preterm’ and defined as between 34 and 37 weeks gestation, have a greater risk of re-hospitalization, breathing problems, feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice, delayed brain development, learning problems, and sudden infant death compared to full-term babies.2,4
There are interventions that have been shown to prolong pregnancy for women at risk by either prior preterm birth history or by short cervical length measurement. Identifying women at risk for preterm birth earlier allows earlier interventions.
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“Each week of gestation up to 39 weeks is important for a fetus to fully develop before delivery and have a healthy start.”
Chair of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology’s Committee on Obstetric Practice 2013 Press Release