Having your baby 3 to 6 weeks early may have a few health risks for you and your child. But you can take steps to help your infant stay healthy and grow normally after an early birth.
A late preterm birth happens between 34 and almost 37 weeks of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks. About 8% of all births in the U.S. are late preterm.
Babies grow about a half-pound each week during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. During this time, your little one is still developing.
But there are reasons you and your doctor may decide to deliver your child early.
- You have high blood pressure, diabetes, or preeclampsia, a serious form of high blood pressure during pregnancy
- Your baby or twins don’t have enough room in the uterus to grow further
- Your placenta is blocking the birth canal opening (placenta previa)
- You've had previous C-section deliveries
- Your water breaks early
In other cases, some things can make a woman more likely to have a premature baby:
- Being in your teens, or age 40 and over
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Depression or lots of stress
- Being a victim of domestic violence
How Might It Affect My Baby?
Your late preterm newborn is at risk for some health issues. Once you're both home from the hospital, watch for signs that you may need to call your doctor’s office or take your infant to the emergency room.
Nursing. Your little one may eat slowly and not be able to take in as much milk or formula as a full-term baby. You’ll feed him more often, about every 3 or 4 hours. If he refuses to eat, call your doctor or nurse. If your baby has a hard time learning to breastfeed, ask for help from your nurse, doctor, or a lactation consultant.
Sleeping. Your baby may be sleepier than full-term infants. He may even sleep through feedings. Wake your baby when it’s time to eat. Place your baby on his back to sleep.
Breathing. Call your doctor or 911 if you notice he's having a hard time breathing.