November is prematurity awareness month. By definition, a premature birth is simply a baby born before 37 weeks gestation. Because “before” can range in time, there are differing levels of prematurity.
The risk of complications surrounding premature birth lessen the closer development is to that 37 week mark, with babies born prior to 26 weeks gestation considered the highest risk.
Around the world, it is estimated that 15 million babies are born prematurely on an annual basis. Of that 15 million, more than a million do not survive. In the US, we have one of the highest preterm birth rates among industrialized countries.
While most premature births occur closer to the 37 week mark, the risk of complications surrounding premature birth lessen the closer development is to that 37 week mark, with babies born prior to 26 weeks gestation considered the highest risk. To put things into perspective, let’s break the survival rate down by gestational age:
- 26 weeks: 80% survival rate
- 27 weeks: 90% survival rate
- 28-31 weeks: 96% survival rate
- 32-33 weeks: 98% survival rate
- Over 34 weeks: 99% survival rate
Often premature babies have longer hospital stays after birth due to varying health problems. Modern medicine has helped premature babies survive and thrive like never before, however, some preemies may have long-term health problems that will affect their health throughout their lives.
Recently, a Canadian photographer created a photo series dedicated to photographing pictures of people with photos of their preemie self. As a father of two preemies, he understands that while not all preemie stories end well, many go on to experience life to the fullest.
For more information on preterm births and how you can help, visit the March of Dimes website.