Preterm delivery, also known as premature birth, refers to the birth of a baby before the 37th week of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy should last about 40 weeks. Babies born early may face serious health problems as their organs are not fully developed yet.

Key Takeaways

  1. Preterm delivery refers to a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.
  2. Preterm delivery can have a variety of causes including multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. However, often the cause is unknown.
  3. Babies born preterm may face several health issues including difficulties with breathing, digestive problems, and increased risk of neurological conditions. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of complications.


The term preterm delivery is important in the context of motherhood because it refers to the birth of a baby at fewer than 37 weeks gestational age. These babies are known as preemies or preterm infants.

Preterm delivery comes with a range of health risks for the baby, as the final weeks of pregnancy are crucial for the development of the baby’s organs such as the brain, lungs, and liver. Babies born prematurely may face complications like breathing problems, heart issues, and bleeding in the brain.

The risk of long-term disabilities, including learning disorders and cerebral palsy, is also higher among preemies. Consequently, preventing preterm delivery where possible is a significant focus in prenatal care.


Preterm delivery, also known as premature birth, is a term in motherhood that marks an early arrival of a baby, specifically a baby that is born less than 37 weeks gestation. It serves as an important classification in prenatal care as it carries specific medical implications for both the mother and the baby.

This term guides healthcare professionals in providing the appropriate care and interventions necessary to support the health of both the mother and the baby since premature babies may face a variety of health issues due to their early birth. The use of this term helps medical professionals strategize a different form of care plan, potentially involving different departments such as neonatology, nutrition, physical therapy, etc.

to ensure effective growth and development for a preterm baby. Furthermore, it also aids researchers in the study of causes, prevention, and impact of premature birth.

Understanding the factors associated with preterm delivery also assists public health officials in developing policies and programs aimed at reducing its incidence, thereby improving pregnancy outcomes. So, the motherhood term preterm delivery serves as a defining lens through which both the healthcare provider and parents navigate the journey of premature birth and motherhood.

Examples of Preterm delivery

Example 1: A woman named Sarah was 32 weeks pregnant when she started experiencing contractions and discomfort. She was rushed to the hospital and upon being checked, it was confirmed she was in labor. Despite medication to slow it down, Sarah delivered her baby at 32 weeks instead of the normal 40 weeks term, which is an example of a preterm delivery.

Example 2: Ana was expecting twins and due to the strain multiple pregnancies often cause, she went into labor at just 30 weeks. Since twins often come earlier than single babies, this was a high-risk pregnancy that required close monitoring. Ana’s twins were born 10 weeks ahead of schedule, this is another example of a preterm delivery.

Example 3: Emily was pregnant with her first child. At 34 weeks, her water unexpectedly broke and she started labor. Despite being slightly premature, Emily’s baby was delivered healthy but required some extra care in the neonatal intensive care unit for a few weeks. This again is an example of a preterm delivery.

FAQs about Preterm Delivery

What is preterm delivery?

Preterm delivery refers to the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks.

What causes preterm delivery?

Certain factors like multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.), chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and certain infections or medical conditions during pregnancy can lead to preterm delivery. However, often the exact cause is unknown.

What are the risks associated with preterm delivery?

Preterm babies, also known as “preemies”, may have complex medical problems. Typically, the earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of complications. Some of these complications may not appear until later in life.

How is preterm labor managed?

Doctors have various ways to delay labor or prepare the baby’s development if preterm labor starts. This can include medications, bed rest, and potentially procedures to stop labor.

Can preterm delivery be prevented?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent preterm delivery. However, proper prenatal care can help reduce risks. It’s also important to manage chronic conditions, maintain a healthy weight, avoid harmful substances, and seek regular prenatal care.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Neonatology
  • Prenatal Care
  • Cervical Insufficiency
  • Low Birth Weight

Sources for More Information

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC provides a wide range of health information, including details about preterm delivery.
  • World Health Organization (WHO): WHO is an international organization that offers informational resources on various health topics, including preterm birth.
  • March of Dimes: This organization focuses on the health of mothers and babies, and provides extensive information about preterm labor and premature babies.
  • Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic is a respected medical institution that provides information on a wide range of health topics, including preterm labor and birth.