If you give birth to a baby at 33 weeks, then your baby is going to be classed as premature or preterm.
This means that your baby isn't as fully developed as they would be if they had reached full term. If your baby is born after 34 weeks they are classed as late preterm, but between 32 and 34 weeks is classed as moderate preterm.
Premature babies often need complex medical care and time in a neonatal intensive care unit to help them get ready to go home with you. Preterm babies can suffer from many complications, so it is important to take extra precautions to make sure they are totally safe and healthy. If you are worried about preterm birth, this article will help you to understand the risks and health complications, and help you protect and care for a premature baby.
Risks & Complications
When you give birth to your baby at 33 weeks, the most important thing that you need to know is what your child's chance of survival is. Although there can be risks and complications, the survival rate of premature babies born at 33 weeks is 98%.
Though the chance of survival is high, if your baby is born at 33 weeks there are some risks and health problems that you might want to be aware of that could affect them.
Firstly, your baby could experience problems with trying to gain weight. Babies born at 33 weeks of pregnancy struggle with gaining weight because they can't suckle breasts as effectively as they need to in order to grow.
Indigestion can also be a major problem for premature babies, which can lead to further problems down the line. A feeding tube will usually be used instead of breast or bottle feeding so that your baby gets all the nutrients that they need.
Babies born at 33 weeks of pregnancy could suffer from low blood sugar levels, which means they will need to be monitored closely. They may suffer from hypoglycemia, and will probably need medical support in the NICU.
A baby born at 33 weeks has a brain that is only around two-thirds of its final weight. There is a risk with babies born this early that they could have behavioral or developmental problems later in life if their brain needs to develop outside of the womb.
A baby that is extremely preterm will also struggle to maintain its body temperature. If a preterm baby weighs less than 5 lb 8 oz (2.5 kg), this means they don't have enough body fat to stay alive once they leave the womb. That's why doctors will care for premature babies in an incubator or electric bed to keep them warm while they gain weight.
Eye problems like retinopathy can sometimes occur in premature babies, which can result in vision loss. Usually, this only affects babies born before 33 weeks though.
Other common risks that preemies experience from being born at 33 weeks include pneumonia, sepsis, jaundice, patent ductus arteriosus, anemia, bleeding in the brain, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and necrotizing enterocolitis.
Babies who are born preterm can also sometimes develop long-term health complications that need support throughout their childhood and even their whole life. This can include delayed motor and language skills, difficulty with attention, focus, and memory, delayed cognitive development, behavior problems, and cerebral palsy.
How To Care For Your Premature Baby
Babies born at 33 weeks will almost always be kept in hospital in the intensive care unit until a medical professional deems them able and ready to survive on their own.
In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), doctors will be able to track your baby's development and make sure there are no health problems or complications. Usually, preterm babies will only be kept in hospital for a relatively short length of time, until they are able to feed and breathe without extra help.
Babies might also need to be put on medication if they are born prematurely. This can include diuretics to increase their urine output, antibiotics to fight infection, eye medications, and surfactant for breathing issues.
Your doctor will give guidance on how to best look after preterm babies in the hospital, as it will vary depending on your baby's specific needs. Even though a baby born this early will not be able to breastfeed or feed from a bottle, it's important for mothers to try to feed their baby as often as possible, usually right from birth. This will probably mean a lot of pumping and storing breast milk, and consistently trying to breastfeed.
If you can, spend time with your premature baby as much as possible during their stay in the NICU. If you are able to hold your baby, then skin-on-skin contact will help you to bond and improve their weight, making them healthier so they are more likely to become strong enough soon to come home. If you aren't allowed to hold your baby after premature birth, then it is still important to talk or sing to them so they know that you are with them and to help them to feel safe and connected to you.
Your baby will usually be ready to come home when they are able to breathe on their own, breast or bottle feed, regulate their body temperature, and are gaining steady weight. If you are caring for your baby born at 33 weeks at home, then there are a few pointers that are important to take into account. Doctors will give you special guidance on how to care for preterm babies, so you know what to do in your unique situation.
Make sure you have clean and disinfected hands when handling your baby to keep them away from any unnecessary germs. The safer you can be the better, so sterilizing any toys and using one-use tissues instead of reusable cloths are both a good idea to avoid complications.
As a guide, it's also good to restrict the number of people interacting with your baby, especially if anyone is feeling unwell. Your baby's immune system will be weaker than a full-term baby's, so an infection could make them very ill.
Causes Of Premature Birth
Some women give birth naturally at 33 weeks, whilst others may have a planned early Cesarean delivery for medical reasons or an emergency Cesarean delivery. There are a huge number of causes for premature birth. Often your doctor will be looking for signs of these to take extra precautions. Here are some of the more common causes that they will be looking out for.
If you have issues with your placenta, it may mean that the baby needs to be separated from it sooner than usual, meaning a premature birth might be necessary for their safety.
If you are consuming drugs and alcohol during your pregnancy, this could cause you to give birth to your baby before they are full-term too.
Trauma can cause you to give birth prematurely at 33 weeks. This can be physical trauma or mental stress from traumatic life events and can cause you to give birth at any time.
Experiencing irritation in your uterus, called uterine irritability, where you experience frequent regular contractions is a cause of preterm labor that is quite rare, and will usually be monitored from early in your pregnancy.
Women who have problems with their nutrition and health, and who are severely overweight or underweight can often be at risk of having preemies too because their baby is unable to receive the nutrients they need.
If your cervix struggles to keep your baby secure, then you could be at risk of going into labor before your due date. This is sometimes called an incompetent cervix and it is when your cervical tissue is weak or soft or dilates too early in your pregnancy.
Coming down with an infection or illness during pregnancy could be the reason for some babies born prematurely. Chronic and long-term conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes can also result in early labor.
Infections like vaginal infections, amniotic fluid infections, and urinary tract infections can also be a risk during pregnancy which may result in a preterm baby.
Often, women who are pregnant with twins or more than two babies will experience premature birth of their babies. This is usually because one or more of the babies isn't getting enough nutrients.
Women who have a short interval between pregnancies are more likely to experience premature birth. A short interval is defined as six months or less after pregnancy, and babies born this soon after their sibling are up to 70% more likely to be premature.
If you have had a baby born prematurely previously, then you will be more at risk of your baby being premature in any further pregnancies too, so your doctor will want to carefully monitor your pregnancy.
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