Finding out you are pregnant can be a most joyous time in your life, but the worry and fears over your baby’s health begin at this very moment. One of the biggest fears of every woman is having a miscarriage. This fear leaves women bearing the question of how early is too early for her baby to be born. Medical breakthroughs Have allowed babies at a younger gestational age to have a higher chance at survival than ever before. (https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Extremely-Preterm-Birth) There is no magic number for how early a baby can be born but taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle can help. If you are at risk of a premature birth you will need to understand the risks involved. Here is a breakdown of six stages of pregnancy that explain risks associated with a baby being born during these stages.
1. Extremely Premature Stage (23-27 weeks)
Going into labor early in the pregnancy can be dangerous to your baby. Studies show that babies born between 23-27 weeks of pregnancy have a very small chance of survival. (https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2016/06/12/peds.2015-4434.full.pdf) The early stages of pregnancy are when the majority of the organs, blood cells, and sensory systems are developing, refining, and beginning to work. The longer your baby stays in the uterus, the better the baby’s chance of living outside the uterus becomes. There are many risks of delivery this early. If your child lives, there is a great chance of disabilities that could include vision, hearing, or learning problems.
If you are in this stage of pregnancy and you begin to bleed, have pain, or have a history of difficult pregnancies, you may want to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you learn how to better your chances of delivering a full-term healthy baby.
2. Very Premature Stage (28-31 weeks)
The good news is there is a high probability that your child will have a chance at a full life with the assistance of medical treatment. There is still a possibility of long-term health problems but with the right medical care, this is not always the case. Your baby does have a higher possibility of having Cerebral Palsy. Your medical professional will discuss these risks with you. It is true that your child’s organs and brain are still developing at this time, but the most critical period has passed. Although the chance of problems is relevant, there is just as much chance that your baby will be fine after gaining some weight and staying warm and dry under the supervision of medical attendants.
3. Moderately Premature Stage (32-33 weeks)
Being born in a moderately premature stage is scary but it generally safe for your baby. There is a high possibility of a very low birth weight that can cause serious health issues, but it is not as common in babies born after 32 weeks. Problems that can be associated with this birth stage, and earlier, include low oxygen at birth, problems, eating, temperature control, and infection. The lungs and digestive system are still fine-tuning at this stage so your baby may need some assistance with digestion or breathing at first, but these are issues often they overcome. They are also still at risk for Cerebral Palsy, but the risks are lower at this stage of development.
4. Premature Stage (34-36 weeks)
Your baby’s survival rate is very high. You will be facing the problems associated with low birth weight and the baby may need to have a more extended stay in the hospital, but with a little help, you can take him or her home with a clean bill of health. Slightly low birth weight in babies can cause a baby to have more difficulty with eating, weight gain, or fighting infections. This will be closely monitored and treated by your physician. Most babies born at this stage can quickly catch up with where they need to be and rarely show have long-term complications.
5. Early Term (37-38 weeks)
At one time it was considered full-term for a baby to be born at 37 weeks or beyond. Medical advancement in technology has taught us that it is safe for a baby to be born at this stage, but the brain is still growing and developing. If the baby can wait a few more weeks, until 40 weeks, it will allow for last-minute critical development. If you are given an opportunity to be induced, you may want to make sure they set the appointment after your 40-week mark. You may have to endure the most difficult time of pregnancy for a little longer, but it is the best option for your child.
6. Full Term (39-40 weeks)
This is the safest time to have your baby. Your baby is fully developed and ready to be born. He or she should have little to no unexpected medical issues. After the birth, you will be able to begin skin to skin contact and bonding with your baby. It will not be long until your baby is ready to eat either from a bottle or from your breast and within a day or two you should be able to take the baby home and begin to build your normal routine.
No one can be guaranteed a perfect pregnancy, but there are things that you can do to lessen your odds of going into labor early. Research tells us there are several things you can do to protect your child before you give birth. Some ways to do this include:
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs during your pregnancy
- See your physician as soon as you determine you’re pregnant to discuss proper prenatal care
- Reduce your stress and consider using calming techniques such as meditating, reading, or yoga
- Take care of your own health with proper hygiene, medical care, diet, in exercise (https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/preterm-labor-and-premature-birth-are-you-at-risk.aspx)
Taking care of your health will take care of your child’s health an assist you with a better chance of a healthy, full-term pregnancy.