What can you expect with a prematurely born baby? Every individual preemie is different, but weve made a list of health problems premature babies may encounter, as well as their survival chances and the amount they may need to stay in hospital.
Preemies born at 22 weeks
Can babies born at 22 weeks survive at all? Not long ago, 24 weeks was the absolute minimum for a preemie to receive care, to attempt to keep it alive. Today, that minimum has been moved to 22 weeks. Amilia Taylor was born at 21 weeks and 6 days in 2006, and she is perfectly healthy now. Science has come a long way in recent decades, and some babies who are born at 22 weeks — and as Amilia shows, even a little before — do survive with months of intensive care.
Unfortunately, not very many of these babies make it, and many of the babies who do survive being born this early have severe disabilities. Babies born this early will not be much taller than a pencil, and will look like a fetus — which they are, essentially. These preemies are not able to suck, will try to sleep all the time, and will not be able to move their own bodies. Their eyes are often fused shut, as you may have seen in kittens. If a 22 weeker survives, he or she will need a very long hospital stay.
Preemies born between 23 and 25 weeks
Premature babies born between 23 and 25 weeks are referred to as micro preemies. Only a decade ago, the chances of micro preemies surviving was tiny. Technological advances mean that between 15 and 45 percent of these babies now survive — with the right care, of course. A large minority of babies born at this stage (up to 40 percent) will have some disability, like cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, asthma and learning disabilities. Many will go on to develop completely normally once they are well enough to be taken home. It is hard to say how long a micro preemie will need to spend in the NICU, as every baby is very different. They will often stay in the hospital for many months, however.
Preemies born between 26 and 28 weeks
Babies born between 26 and 28 weeks have significantly higher survival rates than those born between 23 and 25 weeks — up to 85 percent. The rate of severe disabilities will have gone down to 25 percent by this stage, but many preemies will still end up with motor delays, milder visual impairments, and/or asthma. Babies born at 28 may be able to come home as soon as one month after their birth, or they may need to remain in hospital for a little longer.
Preemies born between 29 and 32 weeks
Babies born at this stage still have plenty of the health risks that are associated with premature births, but there is far less concern about their survival once the pregnancy had reached 29 weeks. As many as 95 percent of these preemies survive, and up to 70 percent will develop totally normally. These babies will be smaller than full-term babies, but wont have the fetal look as much as babies born at earlier gestational ages. Babies born between 29 and 32 weeks may need help breathing or feeding, but their NICU stay will be a lot shorter than it would have been if they had been born several weeks earlier.
Preemies born between 33 and 36 weeks
Babies born between 33 and 36 weeks will be smaller than full-term babies, and they are also at risk of lung problems, and may need help with feeding and regulating their temperature. They will behave much more like a term baby than preemies born at earlier stages, and will not have to spend very long in an incubator at all. Though their first few weeks may be tough, babies born at this stage have around the same risk of disabilities like cerebral palsy as babies born at term.