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Premature Baby Care: What Parents Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 18, 2021

Premature Baby Care: What Parents Need to Know

A premature baby is a baby born before they reached 37 weeks in the womb. In contrast, full-term babies are those who are born between Week 37 to 40 of pregnancy.

Premature babies can suffer from certain health problems and complications because they are not yet fully developed.

Some premature babies even need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after being born. This is because their health is especially fragile, they have underdeveloped immunity, and they are prone to temperature instability. The doctors and nurses can better care for premature babies in the NICU.

What Happens in Premature Births

Premature births have a great effect on babies. Typically, the following can be observed in babies that were born pre-term:

  • Premature babies are born very small, usually weighing less than 2.5 kg
  • They have very little body fat, and their muscles are not well developed
  • Some premature babies have very thin skin, and you can sometimes see their veins underneath
  • It is also possible for their sex organs to not yet be fully developed

What Causes a Baby to be Born Premature?

There are a number of possible reasons why a mother could have a premature birth.

The most common causes of premature birth are those associated with labor problems and complications. This can include

  • Stress
  • An infection in the uterus
  • Bleeding in the uterus
  • Being pregnant with more than one baby.
  • Premature contractions
  • Premature rupture of the bag of water
  • Maternal diseases, such as hypertension

In some cases, a premature birth might even be necessary if the baby or the mother is sick. In some rare cases, otherwise healthy mothers can sometimes experience a premature birth without any warning.

What Are the Risk factors for a Premature Birth?

Here are some risk factors that can increase a woman’s chances of giving birth prematurely:

  • Having had a previous premature birth
  • Getting pregnant within a year of having given birth
  • Carrying multiple babies at a time
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Smoking
  • Being 16 years old or younger, or older than 35
  • Cervical and uterine problems

Pregnant women who have had infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding, problems with their placenta, and blood clotting problems are also at risk of premature delivery.

Premature Baby Complications

Because premature babies are not yet fully developed, they are at risk of certain health problems and complications.

Here is a list of the different premature baby complications:

  • Infections or neonatal sepsis
  • Breathing problems, such as Respiratory Distress Syndrome or neonatal pneumonia
  • Newborn jaundice
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis or the invasion of bacteria in the gastrointestinal system
  • Retinopathy, or an underdeveloped retina
  • Hearing problems
  • Anemia

If your newborn has some of these complications or has a high risk, your doctor would advise for your baby to stay in the NICU for an extended period of time. Usually, premature babies stay in the hospital until they are able to breathe and regulate their temperature by themselves.

Premature baby complications also include some long-term health problems, such as the following:

  • Growth and weight problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disorders
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Dental problems
  • Being more prone to infections
  • Asthma
  • Behavioral or psychological problems

As a premature baby grows older, parents need to monitor their child’s development. This can help them identify any potential concerns early on, as well as address any possible health problems that their child might have. The earlier that these problems get diagnosed, the better the outcome for the child.

Premature Baby Survival Rate

Survival rates for premature babies depend on how much time they spend in the womb.

Premature babies born at 23 weeks only have a 29% chance of survival. For those born at 24 weeks, it’s a 46% chance of survival, and at 25 weeks, the chance of survival goes up to 69%.

At 26 and 27 weeks, the chance of survival is at 78% and 90% respectively. At around 28-31 weeks, the survival rate goes up to 90-95%, and babies born between 32-33 weeks have a 95% survival rate.

Lastly, babies born at 34 weeks onwards have the same survival rate as newborn infants.

However, it is important to note that premature babies, even those born at 34 weeks, are still prone to infections and other health problems. So it is important for parents to take special care of their children to avoid having these problems in the future.

Caring for a Premature Baby

Here are some important things that parents need to remember when caring for a newborn baby:

  • The skin of a premature baby is very fragile, so be sure to take extra care when handling them
  • Be sure to keep their surroundings clean, and always wash your hands before caring for your little one
  • Premature babies are usually taken to the NICU to undergo special care
  • Some premature babies need to be placed in an incubator to help keep them warm
  • Their vital signs are also monitored  to make sure they are okay
  • In some cases, they might be fed through feeding tubes
  • Some premature babies, especially those born very early, may undergo a blood transfusion
  • Be sure to give your baby any medication that the doctor will prescribe

Key Takeaways

Premature births and their complications differ from child to child. Usually, when it comes to premature pregnancies, doctors will monitor your child in a hospital setting until it is deemed safe to bring your newborn home.

Once at home, they will need extra care and monitoring. Always consult your doctor on how to better nurture your child’s development and how to ensure that they grow up healthy and without any problems.

Learn more about Parenting here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 18, 2021

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