Very early preterm birth is defined as occurring before thirty-two (32) weeks gestational age. Early preterm birth, on the other hand, is defined as occurring between thirty-two (32) and thirty-six (36) weeks gestational age. Finally, late preterm birth is defined as occurring between thirty-four (34) and thirty-six (36) weeks gestational age. Risk factors for a preterm or premature birth include a previous preterm or premature birth and being pregnant with multiple babies.
Newborn complications associated with a preterm birth include immature fetal lungs, difficulty regulating body temperature, poor feeding, and brain damage. Due to the inability of the preterm lungs to breath in the outside world, premature babies are often placed on mechanical or assisted ventilation. Preterm birth often leads to brain damage due to these difficulties. The brain damage can include intraventricular hemorrhages or periventricular leukomalacia, a unique form of brain damage to the premature newborn’s brain. The best method to avoid these types of injuries to the premature baby is to prolong the pregnancy as long as possible and to administer antenatal corticosteroids, which help the baby’s lungs develop when preterm birth in imminent.