From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Premature birth is the birth of a baby before the standard period of pregnancy is completed. In most systems of human pregnancy, prematurity is considered to occur when the baby is born sooner than 37 weeks after the beginning of the last menstrual period (LMP).
Approximately 12 percent of babies in the United States are born prematurely each year.
The shorter the term of pregnancy, the greater the risks of complications. Infants born prematurely have an increased risk of death in the first year of life (infant mortality), with most of that occurring in the first month of life (neonatal mortality).
Prematurely born infants are also at greater risk for developing serious health problems such as cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, gastrointestinal problems, mental retardation, vision or hearing loss and are more susceptible to developing depression as teenagers.
In developed countries premature infants are usually cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Some of the complications related to prematurity are not apparent until years after the birth. For example, children who were born prematurely have a higher likelihood of having behavioral problems, delays in motor development, and difficulties in school. Specifically these problems can be described as being within the executive domain and have been speculated to arise due to decreased myelinization of the frontal lobes. Throughout life they are more likely to require services provided by physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech therapists.
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