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Premature births happen in about 11% to 13% of pregnancies in the United States. A birth is considered preterm when an infant is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. Preterm deliveries, even if late preterm, should never be done for the convenience of the family or the obstetrician.
Premature babies may be:
Late preterm: born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy
Moderately preterm: born between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy
Very preterm: born before 32 weeks of pregnancy
All babies who are born prematurely are at a greater risk of health problems, such as those with feeding or breathing. Even late-preterm babies usually need to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for some time after delivery. In the NICU, the baby's activity, breathing, and feeding are closely watched to make sure he or she is safe and healthy before going home.
Many previous research studies have suggested that late-preterm infants were at risk of developmental delays and behavior problems. A large study described in this month's Archives reports on more than 1200 babies who were born late preterm. The researchers looked at these babies' progress from birth through age 15 years. This study found no major differences between late-preterm and full-term babies in several areas of testing. These tests included tests of thinking, behavior, achievement, and emotional development. This study suggests that late-preterm infants who are born healthy are likely to have normal development and health during childhood.
There are several ways to help your late-preterm baby be healthy and happy. These recommendations are for any baby, but are especially important for a preterm baby.
Avoid any tobacco exposure to your baby
Always put your baby on his or her back when he or she goes to sleep
Make sure your baby's crib is safe: no toys, pets, stuffed animals, or blankets anywhere in the crib
Breastfeed your baby during his or her first year of life
Making sure your baby's hearing and vision are checked
What to expect for your baby's growth and weight gain
Immunizations to protect your baby against infections
“Birth to Three” programs to help your baby develop
To find this and other Advice for Patients articles, go to the Advice for Patients link on the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Web site at http://www.archpediatrics.com.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/preemie/Pages/default.aspx.
The Advice for Patients feature is a public service of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your child's medical condition, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that you consult your child's physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
New Information About Late-Preterm Babies. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(6):587. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.82