Facts About Premature Birth: Prevention and Treatment

  • A premature baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation.
  • About 1 in 9 babies are born prematurely each year in the U.S.
  • Risk factors for giving birth prematurely are: having a prior premature birth, being pregnant with multiple babies like twins or triplets, having chronic medical problems, having an infection during pregnancy, and engaging in high-risk behavior like smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
  • Ways to minimize the risk for a premature delivery include eating a healthy diet, lowering stress, not smoking or doing drugs, and managing all medical conditions with the help of a doctor.
  • To help prevent premature birth, women are encouraged to seek prenatal care throughout their pregnancy. This will help identify any problems that could lead to a preterm birth.
  • Even if a woman does everything right, her baby can still be born prematurely.
  • Special equipment and expertise may be required to support a premature baby immediately after delivery.
  • Babies born extremely early are at a higher risk for intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, breathing problems and death. Parents should ask their neonatologist and pediatrician about medical issues to watch for as their preemie grows.
  • Keeping up with vaccinations is important for preemies. This will protect the baby until his or her immune system has matured.
  • Premature babies are at risk for developmental delays. Parents should watch carefully to see if their baby hits his or her milestones, taking into account the appropriate delay from an early birth.
  • If a woman thinks she will deliver prematurely, it is important to make a birth plan that includes partnering with a hospital that has experience treating premature babies.


Are you at risk for delivering a premature baby?

Find a neonatologist today.

Will your baby need critical care after birth?

Learn about CHOC Children’s neonatal intensive care units.