Did you know that November is Prematurity Awareness Month? More than half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States each year. More than 70% of those half a million premature babies—which translates to more than 350,000—are born late preterm, between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.
Often, late-preterm births occur as a result of pregnancy complications or health problems in the mother or fetus. However, the March of Dimes and other organizations, are concerned that many late-preterm births happen via induced labor or cesarean section at the request of the mother and/or health care provider without medical justification.
Why the concern? Although 99% of late preterm babies survive, a few weeks gestation makes a huge difference in infant health. Here are the facts.
Late preterm babies are:
- six times more likely than full-term infants to die in the first week of life (2.8 per 1,000 vs. 0.5 per 1,000).
- three times more likely to die in the first year of life (7.9 per 1,000 vs. 2.4 per 1,000).
- usually between 4½ and 6 pounds and may appear thinner than full-term babies.
- at higher risk than full-term babies for newborn health problems, including breathing and feeding problems, difficulties regulating body temperature, and jaundice.
- at increased risk for learning and behavioral problems. At 35 weeks, a baby’s brain weighs only two thirds of what it will weigh at 40 weeks.