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What is a premature baby?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

A premature baby, or preemie, is born before the 37th completed week of pregnancy. Premature birth is a serious health problem. Because they are born too early, preemies weigh less than full-term babies. Premature babies are at increased risk for health complications, such as breathing problems and feeding problems, because their organs did not have enough time to develop. Preemies need special care in a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

Infants born before thirty-seven completed weeks of gestation are premature. Low-birth-weight babies are less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (8 percent of births) and very-low-birth-weight babies are less than 3 pounds, 4 ounces (fewer than 2 percent of births). The preterm birth rate is about 13 percent in the United States, having risen for the last two decades, mostly because of multiple births due to assisted reproduction.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.