In the context of motherhood, “premature” refers to a baby that is born before the 37th week of gestation. These babies, also called “preterm” babies, are born before the full term of pregnancy is completed. They often require special care and medical attention due to underdeveloped organs.

Key Takeaways

  1. Premature refers to babies who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy, which is earlier than the typical gestation duration of 40 weeks.
  2. Premature birth can lead to a variety of health issues for the baby, as some organs may not have had enough time to fully develop. These issues can include breathing problems, heart issues, and a weak immune system amongst others.
  3. Moments of premature birth require immediate and specialized care to provide the baby with the best chance of survival and the least amount of possible complications. This usually takes place in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


The term “premature” in motherhood is crucial as it refers to babies who are born before the full gestation period of 37 weeks.

Health professionals use this term to highlight potential health risks and developmental challenges that these infants may face due to their early arrival.

Premature babies often have underdeveloped organs, which can lead to complications such as respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhage, and other serious conditions.

Immediate and specialized care is often required for their survival and healthy growth.

Understanding the term “premature” enables parents, healthcare providers, and caregivers to provide the right care and attention these infants need in the early stages of their life.


Premature, in terms of motherhood, is a term used to describe a baby that is born before the standard pregnancy term of 37 weeks. It is a vital classification as it provides immediate insight into the potential health considerations and care that may be required for the newborn.

Babies born prematurely often have distinct developmental and medical needs compared to those who have spent a full term in utero. Being labelled as premature prepares the healthcare professionals to adapt their care protocols to better cater to the specific needs of the preterm baby.

The term is also used for planning and structuring the follow-up care once the baby leaves the hospital. The classification of a baby as premature can guide and inform various follow-up interventions that may be needed, such as regular check-ups, specific developing monitoring, and targeted therapies like physiotherapy or speech and language therapy.

Thus, the term ‘premature’ takes on a significant purpose in managing the care and development of a newborn from birth onwards. Its use can help ensure that premature babies receive the individualised attention they may need to thrive.

Examples of Premature

A woman gives birth in her 7th month of pregnancy: This is an example of a premature birth because normally, a full-term pregnancy lasts about 9 months. In this case, the baby is born 2 months early and may need special care because some of their organs may not be fully developed.

An underweight newborn: During a routine check-up shortly after birth, doctors find that a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, which is considered low birth weight. This can indicate that the baby was born prematurely, as premature babies often weigh less than babies who are full-term.

A baby in an incubator: Leaving the secure and warm environment of the mother’s womb too early can leave a prematurely born baby unable to maintain its body temperature. To assist with this, newborns are placed in heated incubators in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This real-world example illustrates the special care premature babies might require in order to thrive.

FAQs about Prematurity

What is premature birth?

A premature birth, also known as a preterm birth, is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Normal gestation for a pregnancy is 40 weeks, so any birth that occurs more than three weeks ahead of a mum’s due date is considered premature.

What are the risks associated with premature birth?

Premature babies, also known as “preemies,” may have complex medical issues. Generally, the earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of complications. These complications can vary between premature babies and can be minor, serious, or even life-threatening.

What causes premature birth?

There are multiple possible causes for premature birth, and often, the exact cause isn’t known. However, certain factors such as being pregnant with multiple babies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can increase the risk of premature birth.

How can premature birth be prevented?

Not all premature births can be prevented. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting regular prenatal care, watching for risky symptoms, and working closely with one’s healthcare provider can all help in preventing premature birth.

How do hospitals care for premature babies?

Premature babies will likely need to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they can receive around-the-clock care from a team of specialists. This team might include a neonatologist, pediatricians, neonatal nurses, dieticians, lactation consultants, occupational and physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and social workers.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS)
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Prenatal Care
  • Neonatology

Sources for More Information

  • World Health Organization (WHO): WHO provides a comprehensive repository of information on assorted health topics including motherhood and premature birth issues.
  • March of Dimes: This organization is committed to improving the health of mothers and babies. They provide plenty of resources and information about prematurity and the associated risks.
  • Mayo Clinic: The Mayo Clinic offers extensive information about premature birth, its potential causes, prevention methods, and treatment options.
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: The institute is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. They provide comprehensive resources on preterm labor and birth.