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The Impact of Premature Birth

E Fact

About twenty years ago, babies born prior to twenty-eight weeks gestation were not considered viable. However, advances in medical technology now make it possible for some infants as young as twenty-three weeks to survive. For each week that the baby is denied development in the womb, the chances of catastrophic complications increase.

Normally, human babies require about 270 days to fully develop in the womb, after which they are usually ready to make the transition to life on the outside. When babies are born too early, many of their body's organs and systems are immature, unable to function properly on their own. Fortunately, medical science has the ability to help those babies stay alive until they can sustain themselves.

The consequences of premature birth vary from short-term to long-lasting. Some are major disabilities while others are minor inconveniences. Some are manifested immediately while others may not surface until later in life. How prematurity will affect your babies depends a great deal on just how early they were born. For example, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and blindness are all major complications that result from premature birth. At the other end of the spectrum are minor conditions that can be corrected or overcome later in life, such as asthma, vision deficiencies, hyperactivity, or orthopedic irregularities.

Preemie Viability

Weeks Gestation Survival Rate Impact
23 weeks 30% survive 100% of survivors have major disability
24 weeks 60-65% survive 40-50% have major disability
25 weeks 70% survive Varies depending on complications
26 weeks 75% survive Varies depending on complications
28 weeks and up 80%+ survive Varies depending on complications
29-34 weeks 90% survive Minimal

Birth is the transition point between development in the womb and life on the outside. Premature babies simply aren't ready to exist in the outside world. Fortunately, medical intervention makes it possible to sustain their vital systems while the babies adapt to the conditions of life and finish developing outside the womb. However, their immature functioning can often cause irreparable damage to vital organs.

One of the most difficult aspects of having premature babies is not knowing where they will land within the spectrum of severity. There is simply no way to know what the future holds. Only time will reveal the full impact of prematurity on your multiples.

From The Everything Twins, Triplets, and More Book Copyright © 2005, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.

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