Premature birth: when can we start talking about it?

If a baby is born a few weeks before the expected date, it is called a premature birth. In this article you can find out exactly from which week of pregnancy a baby is called a premature birth and when one speaks of a miscarriage.

How many premature births are there in Germany?

Around eight to ten percent of all children in Germany are born prematurely. This means they will be born before gestational week 37+0. One percent of the children are even born before the 32nd week. In the last twenty years, medicine has made great advances in the treatment of premature babies, and the chances of survival for premature babies who are born well before this point in time have increased significantly.

However, the smaller the baby, the more difficult it is to start life. Unfortunately, children weighing less than 500 grams at birth still have little chance of survival today. Since the weight is independent of the baby’s state of maturity, nowadays not only the week of pregnancy but also the birth weight plays a role in when the terms premature birth, miscarriage, abortion and stillbirth are used.

From what week of pregnancy is a premature birth considered?

miscarriage= abortion
early miscarriageBefore the 12th week (12+0)
late miscarriageAfter 12 weeks (12+0) and less than 500 grams birth weight, no signs of life at birth
stillbornBirth weight over 500 grams and no signs of life from the child
premature babyBorn after 12 weeks but before 37 weeks with signs of life or stillborn weighing more than 500 grams at birth
termbornBorn after the 37th week, regardless of birth weight or condition of the child

Source: Saling Project

According to the Saling Institute, the medical terms used are differentiated according to the week of pregnancy and birth weight. Accordingly, “a miscarriage (= abortion) is understood as a loss of the fetus, the embryo or a child that was born dead weighing less than 500 grams”. A distinction is also made between early miscarriage (before the start of the 12th week) and late miscarriage (after the start of the 12th week). However, the term “late abortion” has become rare these days. Because the medical possibilities have improved so significantly that even children who are born in the 24th week of pregnancy have a real chance of survival.

A child that is born before the 37th week (GW 37+0) and weighs more than 500 grams is called a premature birth . According to the Saling Institute, stillborn children weighing more than 500 grams are also considered premature babies. Children who are born after the 12th week and before the 37th week with a birth weight of less than 500 grams are also considered to be premature babies if they show signs of life at birth.

All births after the 37th week of pregnancy are considered full term regardless of the weight or condition of the child .

causes of premature birth

The causes of premature birth are very diverse and not all of them have been clearly explained. They range from gestational diabetes and a lack of care for the unborn child for a wide variety of reasons to heavy smoking or alcohol consumption. However, the most common cause of premature birth is a vaginal infection . You can find out more about when a premature birth can occur in our article “ Causes of a miscarriage ”.

Recognizing the impending preterm birth

A threatened premature birth is announced by regular, painful contractions . Slight bleeding or leakage of fluid can also be the first signs. In this case, prompt medical help is very important. If neither doctor nor midwife can be reached, the nearest hospital is the right contact. Based on the ultrasound results, the vaginal examination and the CTG recording of the contractions, the doctor can determine whether there is a risk of premature birth and start appropriate treatment quickly. A bacterial swab is used to determine if an infection is causing labor.

Medical supplies

Medical care for premature babies has improved over the past 30 years. This is why babies born very prematurely and with a low birth weight now have good chances of survival. Even if your baby was born prematurely, it can later have the same quality of life as the so-called full-term babies. In our article “ How a premature baby is cared for in the clinic ” you can find out more about the time in the clinic.

Support for you and your partner

A premature birth is not only very exhausting for a baby, the first time after the birth is also very difficult for the parents. Ask your hospital or midwife about psychological support and self-help groups. You are also entitled to help for the weeks that follow. In our article “ Help in the first few weeks with a premature baby ” you can find out more about the offers of help.

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