Understanding Prematurity

A full nine months is important for baby and mom. Here's why.

Early Birthdays

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For a growing number of babies, birthdays come too soon. The rate of premature births in this country has increased 31 percent since 1981, and today about one in eight babies, or half a million each year, are born prematurely -- before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Babies born too soon are more likely than full-term babies to experience newborn health problems, such as difficulty breathing, as well as lasting disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, or vision or hearing loss. Babies born before 32 weeks face the highest risk of serious complications, but even those born between 34 and 36 weeks (called late preterm births) are more likely than full-term babies to develop jaundice or have difficulty breathing, feeding, or regulating their body temperature.

What can you do to increase the likelihood that your baby gets a full nine months of healthy growth and development? Fortunately, quite a bit.

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