What you need to know about premature babies

2 Feb 2017

When you hear the term premature baby you probably get a mental image of the tiniest baby, the size of a little bird and small enough to fit on your palm, but this is not always the case.

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. The more premature a baby is, the more complications there are and the more care they will need.

There are many possible causes of preterm birth, for example preeclampsia –  a weak cervix or an infection or illness that affects the foetus – however, more often than not,  it’s a mystery why the baby wants to arrive early.

Good chance of survival

What is the smallest size a baby can survive? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, but, there have been cases of babies born as early as 24 weeks surviving... They will of course, require intensive care for many weeks, but the many babies born prematurely survive, thanks to the support and treatment as well as medical advancements hospitals are able to provide today

With the correct care, preterm babies born after 32 weeks should be able to catch up to the developments of other children their age, in time.

Special care

Premature babies are cared for in Neonatal Intensive Care units where doctors and nurses are able to monitor their oxygen saturation level, blood circulation, food intake, brain development and other vital signs.

For more information on premature babies, we recommend speaking to your doctor, clinic sister, or other specialised health-care provider.