What are the chances that my baby will survive?
Many factors determine an individual baby’s chances of survival. The most important of these are:
- The baby’s gestational age (number of completed weeks of pregnancy) at the time of birth
- The weight of the baby
- The presence or absence of breathing problems
- The presence or absence of congenital abnormalities or malformations
- The presence or absence of other severe diseases, especially infection
Premature baby: Born before 37 weeks gestation
Moderately premature baby: Born between 35 weeks and 36 weeks gestation
Very premature baby: Born between 29 weeks and 34 weeks gestation
Extremely premature baby: Born between 23 weeks and 28 weeks gestation
Low birth weight baby: Baby weighs less than 2,500 grams or (5.5 lbs)
Very low birth weight baby: Baby weighs less than 1,500 grams (3.0 lbs)
* Most babies at 22 weeks are not recuscitated because survival without major disability is so rare.
* Each year worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon, over 1 million of these babies sadly lose their fight for life.
A baby’s chances for survival increases 3-4% per day between 23 and 24 weeks of gestation and about 2-3% per day between 24 and 26 weeks of gestation. After 26 weeks the rate of survival increases at a much slower rate because survival is high already.
What other factors influence survival?
Other factors may influence survival by altering the rate of organ maturation or by changing the supply of oxygen to the developing fetus.
- Rupture of the fetal membranes before 24 weeks of gestation with loss of amniotic fluid markedly decreases the baby’s chances of survival even if the baby is delivered much later.
- Male infants are slightly less mature and have a slightly higher risk of dying than female infants.
- For a given weight, African-American babies have a slightly better survival than Caucasian; most other races are intermediate between the two.
- Diabetes in the mother, if not well controlled, slows organ maturation and these infants have a higher mortality.
- Severe high blood pressure before the 8th month of pregnancy may cause changes in the placenta, decreasing the delivery of nutrients and/or oxygen to the developing fetus and leading to problems before and after delivery.
Can my obstetrician do anything to improve my baby’s chances of survival?
Yes, there are things s/he can try if there is enough time and if you are the appropriate candidate for therapy. Sometimes women are too near delivery for treatments to be effective. Other women have complications such as infection, fetal distress or bleeding which make a more rapid delivery the best option.
- You may be placed on bedrest.
- Your obstetrician may try to stop your labor using labor-inhibiting drugs.
- Your obstetrician may give you a steroid medication such as Betamethasone or Dexamethasone to try to speed up the baby’s lung development. This is most effective if it is given more than 24 hours before delivery.
Information complied from Become Healthy Now – written by Dr. Gary Farr
Graph source – NSW Neonatal Intensive Care Study (NICUS) data for 2001 – 2004
Information contained and provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s or health care professional’s advice. Please contact your doctor or health care professional if you have any questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.