In the United States, nearly 1 in 10 babies is born too early and nearly 1 in 6 for African-American women. Babies born before 37 weeks are not only smaller than full-term babies, they’re also more at risk for developing long-term health problems that can last their entire lives.  

Preventing preterm birth can help your baby to live a long and healthy life. Start things right by going to your first prenatal care visit as soon as you think you are pregnant and talk to your doctor about your health and pregnancy needs. It’s also important to know the health problems that can be caused by preterm births. If you know the risks, you can get your baby treatment as early as possible.  

  1. Premature babies have an increased risk of respiratory issues. As their lungs aren’t fully developed, their lung won’t be able to expand and contract as their supposed to when breathing. This means that your baby may have difficulty breathing on their own.

  2. About 1 in 3 children born prematurely needs special school services at some point. Premature babies can suffer from learning disabilities later in their lives. This can mean that they require special schooling and special supportive services, which can be expensive.

  3. Premature birth can lead to long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities for babies. Your child may find it hard to complete everyday tasks on their own or they may miss important developmental milestones. This can include problems with physical development, learning, communications with others, getting along with others, and taking care of themselves.

  4. Breathing problems, like asthma and BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia), can be caused by a premature birth. These are long-term lung conditions that will affect your baby’s whole life and will need to be treated with medications. A preterm baby that develops BPD will also need a longer stay in the hospital after birth, because the baby will have trouble breathing on its own.

  5. Premature birth can cause long-term disabilities. Your baby may suffer from behavioral problems, such as ADHD or anxiety, or from neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy. Premature birth can also cause autism, which is a set of conditions that affect a child’s behaviors and social skills. All of these long-term disabilities will mean that your child will require extra care.

  6. In 2013, 36% of all infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes. The complications of preterm birth can be deadly for your child.

Early prenatal care is one of the easiest ways to lower your risk of a premature birth and gives your child the best chance at a healthy life.