The Impact of Premature Birth
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.
|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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