Week 24 is considered the age of viability for your baby, and therefore an important pregnancy milestone. Like many women, you may feel relieved to get past this point.
If you went into labor and delivered your baby before this week, she would be unlikely to survive and you would be considered to have had a miscarriage. After 24 weeks, the doctors will to do everything they can to save the baby, although babies delivered this early have an increased risk of long-term disability. The more advanced you are in your pregnancy before you deliver, the less likely it is that your baby will face the problems associated with being born prematurely.
Babies who are born prematurely, or newborns who are sick, will receive specialized round-the-clock care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) (see Neonatal Intensive Care Babies). The earlier the baby is born, the more chance there is of complications, such as infections, occurring. If your baby is born several weeks prematurely, she may need to be cared for in a level 3 NICU-this may not be in the hospital where your baby was born. Your baby may be put in an incubator with monitors attached and receive oxygen through a special ventilator. Some of the equipment looks very frightening, but remember it is there to help your baby stay warm and nourished and improve her health.
The staff will readily explain what is going on, and they will be eager for you to be involved as closely as possible in your baby's care and encourage bonding.
The world's youngest surviving premature baby was born in Florida in October, 2006 at just 21 weeks and six days.
The baby weighed only 10 oz (283 g) and measured 9.5 in (24 cm). Her feet were the size of an adult's fingernail. It was the first time a baby born before 23 weeks had survived.
Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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