Prematurity refers to the state or condition of being born before the completion of the full term of gestation, which is typically 37 weeks of pregnancy.


Prematurity occurs when a baby is delivered earlier than expected, before they have had enough time to develop and mature in the womb. It is a critical factor contributing to neonatal mortality and morbidity, as premature infants may face a range of health challenges due to their underdeveloped organs and systems.


The exact causes of prematurity are often unknown, but several factors can increase the risk of preterm birth:

  • Multiple pregnancies: Carrying twins, triplets, or more can result in premature delivery.
  • Maternal health conditions: Chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or infections can increase the likelihood of preterm birth.
  • Poor prenatal care: Inadequate healthcare during pregnancy can lead to complications and premature labor.
  • Previous preterm birth: Women who have previously given birth prematurely are at a higher risk of experiencing it again.
  • Age: Teenage pregnancies and pregnancies in women over 35 years of age carry a higher risk of prematurity.


Prematurity can have both short-term and long-term effects on the health and development of the child. Short-term complications may include:

  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): Premature infants often have difficulty breathing due to underdeveloped lungs.
  • Jaundice: The baby’s liver may not be fully matured, leading to a yellowing of the skin and eyes.
  • Feeding difficulties: Premature babies may have trouble suckling and swallowing, impacting their ability to take in sufficient nutrition.
  • Temperature control problems: Their bodies struggle to regulate body temperature, making them prone to hypothermia or overheating.

In the long run, premature infants may face developmental delays, learning disabilities, and increased risk of certain health conditions.


Medical interventions and specialized care are often required to support the development and well-being of premature infants. Treatment may include:

  • Respiratory support: The use of ventilators or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to help with breathing.
  • Feeding assistance: Feeding tubes or intravenous nutrition to ensure adequate nourishment.
  • Temperature regulation: Incubators or warm environments are employed to maintain a stable body temperature.
  • Monitoring and medication: Constant monitoring of vital signs and administration of medications to manage complications.

Intensive care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is often required until the baby’s organs and systems mature sufficiently.