Baby Born at 24 Weeks

Julie Kirk
Contributor: Ann Roberts
premature baby in incubator

Thanks to advances in medical science, a baby born at 24 weeks has a higher chance of survival than ever before. Currently, the 24-week preemie survival rate is 39%.

What to Expect if You Deliver a Baby at 24 Weeks

Twenty-four weeks puts your baby close to the end of your second trimester. When a baby is born this early, it is a huge cause for alarm. The baby is considered a micro preemie when it is born before 26 weeks. Some issues to expect with a micro preemie:

Your Baby's Organs Still Need to Develop and Grow

At 24 weeks gestational age, the baby will barely weigh one and a half pounds. Most of the babies organs and systems are underdeveloped and unable to function as they should. Organs such as the brain are still growing and the lungs are also still developing.

Your Baby Will Be Spending Time in the NICU

Your baby will be shipped off to the neonatal unit immediately if the infant survives the birthing process. A cesarean is often required at this early stage. Your baby will most likely spend months under neonatal supervision.

Your Baby Will Need Extra Care

Your baby will be hooked up to a respirator immediately as the lungs are not yet equipped to handle breathing outside the womb. There's also the possibility your baby will need surgery due to insufficiently developed organs that can end up causing other problems for your baby.

Your Baby's Future

There is the possibility that your baby may have long-term health problems due to such an early preterm labor. This could extend from infant through toddler years. However, these health issues are not necessarily a given. There is also the possibility that your baby will emerge healthy overall after their long NICU stay.

Possible Complications for the Baby

The complications that could occur if your baby is born at 24 weeks include the following.

Breathing Problems

Breathing problems can occur due to an immature respiratory system. The baby's lungs may lack surfactant which is a substance that allows the lungs to expand. This can lead to respiratory distress, apnea or bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Heart Problems

The most common heart problem found in premature babies is patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) which is an opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery and if it doesn't close can lead to a heart murmur, heart failure or other complications. Low blood pressure is another common heart problem.

Maintaining Body Temperature

Premature babies do not have the body fat of a full-term baby and can lose body heart quickly which can lead to hypothermia and other complications.

Brain Problems

There is a greater risk of bleeding in the brain (intraventricular hemorrhage), the earlier a baby is born. Most bleeds are mild and resolve but some bleeds are larger and can potentially cause permanent injury to the brain.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Premature babies tend to have immature gastrointestinal systems and can have complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Blood Problems

One of the most common blood problems a premature baby is at risk for is anemia. This is when the body doesn't produce enough red cells. Another is when the baby's blood contains excess bilirubin which causes newborn jaundice. This is a yellow discoloration of the baby's skin and eyes.

Problems With Their Immune System

When a premature baby has an underdeveloped immune system, this can cause an increased risk of infection. This can cause sepsis if the infection spreads to the bloodstream

Possible Disabilities

If a baby is born at 24 weeks, the possible disabilities or long-term health problems that may occur include:

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves throughout the body.

Impaired Learning

When a baby is born prematurely, it is not unusual for them to lag behind on various milestones or have learning disabilities.

Autism

Autism is a group of disorders that affect a child's speech, behavior, and social skills.

Behavior Problems

These behavior problems include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and anxiety. There may also be developmental delays.

Vision Problems

Babies born prematurely are more likely to have vision problems such as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Hearing Loss

Babies born prematurely have an increased risk of hearing loss.

Dental Problems

The dental problems a premature baby could have include delayed tooth growth, tooth discoloration or crooked teeth.

Chronic Health Issues

The chronic health issues that may develop include infections, asthma and feeding problems.

SIDS

Premature babies are also at greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Increasing Your Baby's Gestational Time

A large number of babies are born prematurely every year, though a good deal of these cases occur under medical supervision, which increases the baby's chance of survival exponentially. There are many causes of preterm labor though some still remain unknown. These causes include:

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a huge factor in preterm labor. This toxic condition can cause lifelong health problems for mothers as well as result in infant loss if the condition is not closely monitored. This is why it is important for expectant mothers to routinely make their monthly doctor's exam where their urine will be tested for excess protein and their blood pressure will be examined for unhealthily high levels.

Age 35 Years and Older

Your chances of preterm labor are higher if you are over the age of 35. The Duggar family shocked the world again with the birth of their 19th child. Michelle's previous pregnancy had resulted in preterm labor, and a cesarean section was performed to safely birth their 18th child. However, Michelle's latest pregnancy resulted in a baby being born at 25 weeks. The little infant, named Josie, weighed only 1 lb. 6 oz. and suffered a bowel perforation only a week after birth. You can read more about Josie Duggars' struggle for survival at NyDailyNews.com. Doctors related the cause of Michelle's early labor to the condition of preeclampsia.

Infections

Certain infections can result in early labors. You can read one inspiring story about a baby surviving his birth at 24 weeks, yet it is interesting to note that his mother's labor was brought upon by a strep B infection. In the United States, mothers are routinely screened for strep B during cervical exams, and a simple course of antibiotics can rid this bacteria from the mother's system.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can result in both preterm labor and seriously larger babies. Doctors will order glucose screening tests for their patients around 25 weeks to rule out the possibility of this disease. Rapid and unhealthy levels of weight gain are an indicator of gestational diabetes, so an expectant mother will also be weighed each time she makes her doctor's appointment.

You can see that one of the major defense strategies of any expectant mother is to see her obstetrician regularly. Eating healthily, maintaining low-stress levels, and remaining aware of any suspicious health changes over the course of a pregnancy are also important preventative factors.

Miracle Babies

The earlier the baby is born the higher the risk of complications. Generally, 24 weeks gestation is defined as the age of viability. This is when medical intervention will be intensively used to save the life of a premature baby. But there has been a baby who made medical history. She was born and survived at just 21 weeks, weighed less than a pound and a few years later it has been determined that she has no medical issues or disabilities. These resilient micro preemies can definitely be defined as miracle babies.

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Baby Born at 24 Weeks