Newborns are naturally tiny, but babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, are tinier than most, and therefore more susceptible to health complications.
“Babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy often have difficulties with feeding and breathing soon after birth. Additionally, they have more behavioral and learning problems throughout life than babies born at 40 weeks.” says Alan R. Barnette, MD, FAAP, neonatologist at Saint Francis Medical Center’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “Poor fetal growth during pregnancy can exacerbate these difficulties and prolong their hospitalizations. Proper medical care, both before and after the baby is born, is needed to optimize growth and development.”
Expectant mothers should be aware of modifiable risk factors for premature or growth-restricted births: chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, infections, previous preterm deliveries, and substance abuse.