According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) up to 10% of births that occur every year in the world are premature, meaning that babies have spent less than 37 weeks in the womb. Dr. Manuel Sánchez Luna, vice president of the European Union of Neonantology and Perinatal Medicine, explains that in our country the percentage of premature babies reaches between seven and eight percent of the total.

Although below 37 weeks of pregnancy the child is considered premature, specialists agree that those born before week 26, weighing less than 750 grams, are especially serious and difficult to get ahead, since they have less possibilities of living and, even in that case, they usually suffer serious sequelae related to the lack of maturity they present at birth. If the birth occurs in week 23 the baby hardly has any chance of surviving.

Babies born between week 26 and week 28, although they need specific care, have a 90% chance of survival

According to experts, children born when their body is not fully developed, will suffer growth problems and hormonal disorders. In addition, these problems are aggravated depending on what was the cause of prematurity, although in a large percentage (40%) of cases is unknown, sometimes due to conditions of the fetus or mother, such as congenital malformations or infections.

Babies born between week 26 and week 28, although they need to stay in the hospital and receive specific care and special care during the first years of life, have a 90% chance of survival. Among the most common sequelae that these children may present are those associated with the development of the nervous system, including neurological and motor disabilities, respiratory disorders, and developmental disorders, which tend to be slower than in full-term babies. .

Both mortality and sequelae increase as the number of weeks of pregnancy decreases. In our country it is estimated that more than 85% of babies weighing less than 1.5 kg at birth survive and, moreover, half of them do so without sequelae, which is related to the high quality of care of the many centers Specialists available, where professionals specially prepared to meet the needs of these small patients work.

Risk factor's

As we have pointed out, in many cases it is not known why a birth occurs prematurely, but specialists agree that the increase in the age of the mother and her access to the working world, the harmful habits such as tobacco and alcohol , multiple pregnancies, a premature rupture of the placenta, infections or other pathologies of the pregnant woman, and malformations of the fetus, among other factors, can precipitate delivery.

Dr. Manuel Sánchez Luna, vice president of the European Union of Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine, explains that the number of premature births varies greatly from one country to another, and that in Europe the lowest rate is Finland, with 5.5% , while other countries, such as Austria, reach 11.5%.

This specialist points out that efforts should be directed to try to prevent premature births and, when this is not possible, to have centers and personnel specialized in the care of these babies, since their first hours of life are crucial to improve their chances of survival and minimize possible sequelae. In this regard, Sánchez Luna praises the level of quality of care enjoyed by these children in Spain, and highlights the important role of the family of the premature child, who will be responsible for their care at home, and must face this task without fear and having as much information as possible to contribute to a better development of the baby.

"Intraventricular Hemorrhage" by Anne Hansen, MD, MPH for OPENPediatrics (November 2019).