Generally, the further on you are into your pregnancy, the more likely it is that your baby will do well. This is because his organs will be more mature, his lungs will be better prepared for breathing and he’ll have more strength for sucking and feeding. However, your baby is premature if he arrives before you are 37 weeks pregnant.
Sometimes, there’s just no explanation for why a woman has her baby early. However, certain factors play a part in bringing a baby into the world earlier than expected. If you’re pregnant with twins or triplets, you may have your babies earlier than if you were pregnant with one. If you’ve already had a premature baby, there’s a slightly higher chance of you having another premature birth. Social factors play a part, too. Girls under 16 and who have little support are the most likely to have a premature baby. A woman’s age, class, education and the type of job she does, if it involves long hours and strenuous activity, can affect her chances of having a baby early. Smoking, taking drugs and being underweight are all linked with problems that can cause premature birth.
Babies born very early, before 28 weeks, are likely to survive, but about half have a disability such as cerebral palsy and about fifth go on to have a learning difficulty. Other neurological problems include apnea of prematurity, developmental disability, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and intraventricular hemorrhage. Apart from the neurological risks associated with the premature births, respiratory problems are also common; specifically the respiratory distress syndrome (RDS or IRDS) (previously called hyaline membrane disease). Another problem can be chronic lung disease (previously called bronchopulmonary dysplasia or BPD). Babies born between 33 and 36 weeks of gestation have an increased risk of asthma and wheezing compared to those born full term.
Besides that, gastrointestinal and metabolic issues can arise from hypoglycemia, feeding difficulties, hypocalcaemia, inguinal hernia, rickets of prematurity and necrotizing enter colitis (NEC). Hematologic complications include anemia of prematurity, thrombocytopenia, and hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) that can lead tokernicterus. Also infections like sepsis, pneumonia and urinary tract infection can be there. Thus, premature babies are more likely to have problems with breathing, feeding and infections and this may mean that your baby has to be taken straight to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care baby unit (SCBU).