Alternate Names : Prematurity, Preterm Birth
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Mothers may be able to lessen the chances of premature birth by avoiding some of the pregnancy risk factors. For example, prenatal care may help prevent a mother from having a premature baby. It is important to avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking during pregnancy. But sometimes there is no way to prevent a baby from being born early.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Sometimes premature babies grow to be completely normal children. Over 90% of infants weighing more than 1,500 grams, or about 3 pounds, survive. But only about 40% of infants weighing less than 750 grams, or about 1.5 pounds, survive.
Of the babies who survive, 10% to 25% have mild developmental problems. Severe developmental problems occur in 5% to 10% of these babies. The smaller a baby is at birth, the more likely the baby is to have problems. The chronic problems that premature babies can develop often depend on what happens in the first few months after birth.
If a baby needs to be on a ventilator for a long time, lifelong breathing problems can result. Being chronically ill makes it hard for these infants to grow normally.
If a baby needs high levels of oxygen, the eyes can be affected. Some of these babies become blind.
If a baby is on certain types of antibiotics, trouble with hearing can develop.
Premature birth or LBW also carries a higher risk of cerebral palsy and mental retardation. These babies can develop seizures as well. VLBW infants may have problems with learning and school performance.
What are the risks to others?
A premature baby is not contagious and poses no risk to others.