Throughout the course of a 40-week pregnancy there are many important growth and developments including the final months and weeks of the pregnancy. Although most babies born a few weeks early do well with no health consequences, the earlier they are born, the more health problems they have than full-term babies.
A premature or preterm baby is more likely to have certain complications such as:
Many premature births happen without risk factors, even if a woman does everything "right." There are still risk factors that increase the risk of preterm birth. They include:
Women can do certain things to help their health and lower the risk of having a premature baby. These include:
Doctors sometimes decide to deliver a baby early because of concerns for the health of the mother or the baby. Medical intervention for an early delivery should only be considered when there is a medical reason to do so.
The more preterm a baby is born, the more severe his or her health problems are likely to be. Although babies born very preterm are a small percent of all births, preterm delivery is the most frequent cause of infant deaths. Some premature babies require special care and spend weeks or months hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Those who survive may face lifelong problems such as:
Warning Signs of Preterm Labor
In most cases, preterm labor begins unexpectedly and with no known cause. The warning signs are: