A baby born at 32 weeks has a very good chance of surviving and continuing on in life without long term health problems. Though this is not always the case, most infants suffering a premature delivery after about 32 weeks have a survival rate of 98 percent according to MarchofDimes.com. So if you are an expectant mother who has just passed the 31 weeks gestation mark, you can typically breathe a sigh of relief and know that, barring an extreme medical crisis, your child will likely be safe by this point.
The Development of a Baby Born at 32 Weeks
By about 32 weeks your baby is a smaller version of a full term newborn. Babies at this stage have fingernails, toenails and hair, and they weigh roughly 3.5 pounds. This last stretch of third trimester pregnancy will be used for baby's weight gain and the strengthening of internal systems such as the respiratory tract. Babies who are born grievously premature have skin that appears extremely wrinkly because they have missed these essential months of weight gain. By about 32 weeks your baby has just begun the plumping stage and will oftentimes more than double his weight by week 40.
Due to prior miscarriages or the alarming rate of preterm labor in the United States, it is normal for an expectant mother to suffer anxiety as she travels past critical weeks of gestational development. Regularly checking a calendar of such gestational development like the calendar available online at BabyCenter.com can help to keep mothers informed regarding their infant's growth. Moreover, this calendar will keep expectant mothers aware of what symptoms are considered normal during a gestational phase and what symptoms may be indicative of preterm labor.
Misleading Pregnancy Symptoms
By about 32 weeks many women can begin experiencing what are commonly referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions. These are small (though they can be extremely distressing) tight contractions that prepare your uterus for labor, but are generally considered harmless. The number of mothers rushing into the hospital amidst their third trimester, wondering if they are suffering pre-term labor, is remarkably high. However, there are key differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and actual labor symptoms, one of which is that Braxton Hicks contractions will not worsen over time. The tightness of these contractions can be uncomfortable-even painful-but unlike real labor symptoms, they will continue at the same level of discomfort and typically decrease after a while.
Each mother may have individual experiences with these false labor symptoms, which is why BabyCenter.com has forums where mothers can compare their pregnancy woes. False labor symptoms can be different for everyone and, though most of these symptoms will pan out to nothing serious, it is always recommended that an expectant mother experiencing anything she deems unusual during pregnancy have her condition investigated by a doctor.
When Your Baby Is Born Preterm
It is not unusual for a baby born at 32 weeks to be rushed off to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for close monitoring. Conditions such as jaundice and low blood sugar are common. Though some babies can already begin breast- or bottle-feeding at this time, many will still need a feeding tube and a respirator to aid their natural functions.
Preemies can sometimes exhibit difficulty with breastfeeding as their coordination may be poor and their inherent "sucking mechanism" is compromised by early birth. The last two gestational months appear to be critical for behavioral development and so preemies are also at an increased risk for learning disabilities. However, after 32 weeks it is far less likely that your child will suffer long term health complications, and your baby may not even need to remain in the NICU for several weeks or months.
Sometimes an infant is born prematurely due to a severe medical condition such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. In such cases, an infant may have suffered health trauma in the womb, which can lead to health issues outside the range of other babies born after 32 weeks simply due to preterm labor. In such cases, it is difficult to predict the end result of a child's health, but a medical condition that is closely monitored by your obstetrician will result in less trauma for mother and baby than one which is left neglected until it requires an emergency cesarean.