It's not very common for babies to be born prematurely. But if they are, a premature baby gets the very best care and has very good prospects for the future.
Why does it happen?
All babies born before 37 weeks' gestation are described as premature. Being born three weeks early does not have to involve a big risk for the baby. But the more premature a baby is, the more care they will need.
Very premature babies, born between 29 and 32 weeks' gestation, account for just about one per cent of all newborns. Most premature babies are born after 32 weeks' gestation and have a birth weight of over 1,500 grams.
There are many possible causes of premature birth, for example preeclampsia, a weak cervix or an infection or illness that affects the foetus. Often it’s a mystery why the baby wants to arrive early.
Good chance of survival
What is the smallest size a baby can survive? This depends on a number of factors, but babies born as early as 24 weeks can survive. They will of course, require intensive care for many weeks, but the vast majority of babies born prematurely survive, thanks to the support and treatment hospitals can give today. A total of 99 per cent of babies born between 33 and 37 weeks' gestation survive, which accounts for the majority of premature babies.
Most premature babies will develop and become completely normal children.
Premature babies are cared for in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU). Their care includes monitoring their oxygen saturation level, blood circulation, food intake and brain development, as well as other vital signs.
Studies have shown that more than 90% of the premature babies born in the 1980s are healthy and attend normal school. The care of premature babies is evolving all the time, which is why the prospects are better for babies born prematurely today than even five years ago.