Growth & Development
Typically, a fetus spends an average of 40 weeks growing and developing before birth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), babies born before completing 37 weeks gestation are defined as preterm or premature. In the majority of cases, these infants are healthy and experience typical development.
However, infants born prematurely are more likely to require medical care after birth and are at greater risk for developmental delays and challenges that affect their growth and development, compared to full term babies.
For these reasons, regular monitoring of a child's growth and development by a professional is important to ensure that children are developing appropriately for their age and that children at risk can access appropriate services.
Several factors influence whether or not a child born prematurely will experience additional medical care and/or ongoing support. These factors include:
How prematurely the child was born
The baby’s birth weight,
If the baby experienced complications at birth that are known to put them at risk for challenges as children and adults.
There are a variety of reasons that children can be born premature. Prematurity may be linked to:
Maternal conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, infection, substance abuse, trauma, chronic illness)
Fetal conditions (e.g. fetal malformation, chromosomal abnormalities, infection)
Sometimes the reason for a premature birth is unknown.
To reiterate it is very important that contact be made with a practitioner early. This will help ensure early assessment, early diagnosis and early implementation of the care a child needs for their best possible outcome.
Here in Bermuda, at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH), The Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) adjacent to the Maternity Unit cares for babies born before 28 weeks and for other special needs babies.