Q&A: What's the survival rate for babies born at 32 weeks?
I'm currently 32.5 weeks pregnant and have had several episodes of preterm labor, landing me in the hospital three times! Needless to say, the prospect of my having a premature baby is very real. My question is, what problems can I expect if he were born now and what would be the survival rate at his gestational age?
In tertiary (high level) care centers, the survival rates for babies born at 32 to 33 weeks are very high. Broadly speaking, issues that may present revolve mostly around size, feeding and growing. A baby born seven weeks early is significantly smaller than one at full term, since weight gain is concentrated in those last weeks in utero. Infants this age can be sluggish feeders, capable of taking only very small amounts at a feed and using a lot of their energy to do so, so postnatal weight gain can be an issue. Calorie and vitamin-enriched formulas or fortifiers added to breast milk are often used to provide extra calories and the nutrients not absorbed fully from the placenta.
Respiratory distress syndrome, difficulty breathing due to immaturity of the lungs, will be watched for, but isn’t as common in a 33 week infant as in a younger one. Lung maturity can be assessed before birth and hastened with steroids given to the mother if this problem is anticipated. Spells of apnea can arise, however, due to an immature respiratory drive, and requires monitoring and sometimes medication in the first few weeks.
To get the most relevant information for your baby, I would suggest asking your obstetrician to arrange a tour of the neonatal center in your area. There, you can meet the staff that would care for you baby should he arrive early, which includes not only doctors and nurses but, in larger centers, support for new mothers of premature babies including feeding experts and mothers groups.