Each year, preterm birth affects nearly 500,000 babies—that’s 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States. Preterm birth is the birth of an infant prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm-related causes of death together accounted for 35% of all infant deaths in 2009, more than any other single cause. Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children. Preterm birth costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion in 2005.
A developing baby goes through important growth during the final weeks and months of pregnancy. Many organ systems, including the brain, lungs, and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to develop fully. There is a higher risk of serious disability or death the earlier the baby is born.
Some problems that a baby born too early may face include
- Breathing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delay
- Vision problems
- Hearing impairment