Understanding the Stages of Prematurity
How Common is Prematurity?
Prematurity is common, but extreme prematurity (less than 31 weeks gestation) is not. The table below indicates the incidence of prematurity*
|34 – 37 weeks||
|32 – 33 weeks||
|28 –31 weeks||
|> 28 weeks||
*Data from 2004 as found in the National Vital Statistics Report (Vol. 55, No. 1), September 29, 2006.
How Premature is My Baby?
Your baby’s doctor can usually assess the degree of prematurity by a review of the mother’s medical records and an exam of your baby. The degree of prematurity determines the risk of complications. Infants who are born at only slightly less than 37 weeks gestation are likely to have feeding problems that will delay their discharge from the hospital, but they should do well. Babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation are likely to have more serious problems which prolong their discharge and may influence their long-term outcome. Ask your doctor to explain the risks your baby faces.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How premature is my child?
This is an important predictor of how many problems the child is likely to have. Prematurity as measured by gestational age and prematurity measured by birth weight do not always match.
What method was used to measure gestational age?
At very low gestational ages (22-24 weeks), a physical exam is not very good at determining the gestational age. In general, an early ultrasound examination (before 20-weeks gestation) is the most reliable way to estimate gestational age.
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