Premature Birth – Causes, Complications, and Management

Every year an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 which is approx. 1 million. These can be prevented with cost-effective interventions. Let’s hear what experts have to say on this and

Dr. Ashish Jaiswal is a Consultant Neonatologist, Pediatrician at SuperSpeciality Baby Clinic, Indore.

Low-weight birth baby

Low birth weight babies are babies which are born less than the average birth weight. Normally, the average birth weight is 3.00-3.25 Kg. 

  • Baby born less than 2.5 Kg – Low birth weight birth baby
  • Baby born less than 1.5 Kg – Very low-weight birth baby
  • Baby born less than 1.0 Kg – Extremely low-weight birth baby

The normal pregnancy period is around 40 weeks. 

  • 37 weeks – 40 weeks – Term baby
  • Baby born before 37 weeks – Preterm baby
  • Baby born before 28 weeks – Extreme Preterm baby

Premature labor causes

Dr. Ashish says, “There are various causes of premature labor ranging from genetic to environmental factors like an infection. But most of the time, the exact cause of premature labor is unknown. 

Women who have preterm labor in their previous pregnancy are at increased risk of a preterm baby in a future pregnancy. Apart from this, infections also predisposed the mother to preterm labor.”

Handling Premature baby

Dr. Ashish adds, “All babies are different and so is their criticality. Babies who are most premature require extra care. Babies born between 32-28 or less than 28 weeks require more intensive care. Babies born between 32-26 weeks require less intensive care as compared to the above. 

Doctors generally admit Extreme preterm babies and keep them in NICU. Some babies might require an incubator also. On average, babies are kept in the open care system. Doctors provide all kinds of care to support their organs. Because in preterm babies, organs are developed but are not fully functional. They might require help for respiration through CPEP, tube feeding, or parenteral nutrition (IV). Infections are treated with antibiotics. Doctors create the same environment outside as that of a mother’s womb. The whole process is called Developmental Supportive Care.”

Health issues associated with Premature babies

The health problems of Premature babies are very specific and entirely different from Term babies. Premature babies need support. They may have problems like

  • Breathing problem due to immaturity of lungs. 
  • Feeding intolerance 
  • Specific organ system problem

Premature care 

Dr. Ashish emphasizes, “Preterm babies need extra protection against any kind of infection. Premature babies have an entirely different thermo-regulation system which makes them prone to hypothermia. Thus, mothers have to keep them warm by covering them with layers. They might need to keep them in warmers also. Preterm babies are smaller in size and so is their stomach capacity. Hence, they need frequent feeding.” 

Bonding with baby in NICU

One of the forms of Developmental Supportive Care is building bonding between mother and baby.

Kangaroo mother care – It increases the baby-mother bonding as the baby is close to the mother’s abdomen

Doctors advise mothers to talk to their baby, record a few audio things or lori, and play it to the baby as the baby can clearly listen. Therefore, there can be an emotional bond built with the baby even during NICU stays. 


1. Premature babies and breastfeeding

They can’t do direct breastfeeding. Mothers have to express milk and then it is given through a tube or spoon.

2. Later life problems with premature babies

Growth and developmental issues

3. Time taken for premature babies to get healthy

2-3 years

(Edited by Renu Gupta)


Contributed By: Dr. Ashish Jaiswal, 
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About the Author

Renu Gupta

With a background in Pharmacy which is the clinical health science that links medical science with chemistry, I had the desire to mix creativity to these fields. Medicircle provides me an avenue to apply my training in science and interest in creativity together.

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