Premature Birth – Everything You Need to Know

With November being designated Prematurity Awareness Month, we wanted to share an informational blog on what prematurity is, the type of care a premature baby needs, and the health issues that can be caused by prematurity. At The OB/GYN Group of Austin, we are grateful to work with Ascension Seton Medical Center, where we can deliver from 24 weeks and beyond thanks to their state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

What is premature birth?

Premature birth is when a baby is born too early, before the 37th week of pregnancy or more than three weeks before the due date. Approximately, 1 in 10 babies in the US is born prematurely, which is an estimated 15 million babies born prematurely each year.  Premature babies often have complicated medical problems and may need to stay in the hospital for longer than a baby born at full term.

Depending on when your baby is born, they may be described as: 

  • Extremely preterm: When a baby is born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Very preterm: When a baby is born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Moderately preterm: When a baby is born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Late preterm: When a baby is born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of pregnancy.

What type of care does a premature baby need?

If your baby is delivered prematurely, they may need to stay in the NICU for special care. The NICU has a specialized team that is trained and equipped to take care of premature babies. One of the big benefits of delivering at Seton Medical Center Austin is that the team is readily available to help care for your baby. This team will help you understand what your baby needs and come up with a plan for your baby’s care. 

We urge you to ask any questions you have about your baby’s health and the short and long-term effects of premature birth. Also, we recommend asking your doctor their suggestions for support groups and resources in your area that will help you care for your baby and yourself. 

After leaving the hospital, your baby may need special medical equipment or treatment. The doctor and hospital staff will make sure to help you with these items and teach you how to care for your baby once you’ve taken them home. In some cases, they’ll recommend that you take your baby to a neonatologist (a doctor who specializes in caring for premature babies and children) for checkups once you’ve left the hospital. 

Can premature babies have long-term health issues?

It’s common for babies born prematurely to have more health issues than babies born later. This may include issues or complications with their lungs, heart, brain, eyes, stomach, and other organs. Being born prematurely can lead to long-term complications for some babies, including physical, intellectual and psychological problems. 

To learn more about the issues associated with premature birth, we highly suggest visiting March of Dimes, which is a great resource for education on prematurity. 

We hope that this blog helped you understand what prematurity is, the special care a premature baby needs, and the health issues that can come with being born prematurely. If you have any additional questions regarding prematurity, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Your partner for a lifetime of care.