Babies, especially, new-borns, are the most vulnerable human beings in the world. A baby born prematurely or preterm increases this vulnerability even further. Babies are considered premature if born before the 37th week of the gestation period. 

In Kenya, 13,300 children below the age of five die because of preterm complications. The information provided will discuss prematurity in new-borns and its implications.

Reasons for Premature Birth

The reason for preterm birth is not always standard. Most premature babies come early without warning. But there are a few pregnancies that can be at risk, given its complications. Some reasons that could lead to preterm birth include:-

  • Problems with the placenta, cervix, or uterus such as Intrauterine growth restriction (IGR) 
  • Infections of the lower genital tract and amniotic fluid
  • Genetic issues
  • Preeclampsia
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • A previous preterm birth
  • Conception through in vitro fertilization
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Being overweight or underweight prior to getting pregnant
  • Physical injury, trauma or stress
  • Multiple abortions or miscarriages
  • Having a pregnancy in less than six months after giving birth

Signs of Premature

  • disproportionately large head with a small body
  • body covered with fine hair
  • scrawny looking due to lack of fat deposits
  • respiratory distress or labored breathing

Common Developmental Issues

There are short-term and long-term complications that may affect your premature baby. During the first week, complications may include:-

  • Respiratory distress syndrome 
  • Heart problems 
  • Brain problems such as intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Immature gastrointestinal systems
  • Issues with temperature control
  • Hypothermia
  • Anaemia
  • Newborn jaundice 
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Weak immune system

Those that happen much later include:-

  • Impaired learning
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Retinopathy
  • Hearing loss
  • Psychological and behavioral problems
  • Dental issues
  • Chronic health problems such as asthma

Taking Your Baby Home

Immediately after birth, your baby will be placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for close monitoring. He or she will only be released once the doctor is satisfied that they can maintain their body temperature, have gained weight steadily, and can breastfeed or bottle-feed. Do not take your baby home without proper training. You need to have and keep regular appointments with your doctor. 

How to Calculate Your Little One’s Age

It is important to monitor the growth of your premature baby. Any signs of developmental issues are vital to note. Your baby’s progress will differ slightly from those of full-term babies. Your baby will have a chronological age and an adjusted age. Click here to view the full term baby’s growth chart.

Chronological age defines the age from the day of birth while adjusted age is age based on the baby’s due date. For example, if your baby was born two months early and is 6 months, then his adjusted age will be 4 months. Health professionals will use the adjusted age to check your baby’s progress.

After two or three years, your baby will have “caught up” with his/her peers, developmentally. 


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: kemri, healthynewbornnetwork, afromum, mayoclinic, kidshealth

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