Premature Infant in the Childbearing Family

As reported by Eric Eichenwald and Ann Stark, in North America, 11% to 12% of all births occur prior to 37 weeks gestation. The rate of preterm births is increasing, largely because of an increase in births between 34 and 37 weeks gestation. Low birth weight infants (those weighing less than 1,500 grams at birth) account for only a small proportion of preterm births (1.5%); however, these infants account for a large percentage of neonatal mortality and morbidity. In 2003, the health care costs for preterm infants were estimated to be approximately $18 billion. The survival rate for low birth weight infants has improved to approximately 85%, but the risk of long-term morbidity has remained relatively static since the 1990s.

This entry reviews the major medical ...

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