Prematurity is defined as an infant born before 37 weeks gestation. Approximately 10% of babies born in the United States are premature, with survivors born as early as 24 weeks gestation. Multiple pregnancy accounts for approximately 15% of premature births.
Complications are related to immaturity of organ systems. Common problems associated with prematurity include respiratory distress, jaundice, apnea, inability to breast or bottle feed, and neurological problems. There is also a risk of delayed growth and development of the premature infant. Developmental disorders associated with prematurity include motor disorders such as hypotonia, cerebral palsy, and minor motor dysfunction; and learning disorders including mental retardation, specific learning disabilities, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Risk factors for prematurity include lack of prenatal care, low socioeconomic status, poor nutrition, poor education, substance abuse, and adolescent pregnancy. Prognosis for survival and development improves with increasing length of pregnancy; however of babies born at 28 weeks gestational age, approximately 80% survive with most living free of disability.
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