Over 4 million infants are born in the U.S. each year and approximately 10% of all live births are premature. While that equates to fewer than half a million nationwide, it extends to 15 million premature births on a global scale. The reasons for premature births can vary drastically, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one major reason is due to low maternal age. The teen mother trend has tapered in America over the past few years and, as research suggests, risks of a birth defect or traumatic birth injury have dropped along with it. Of course, maternal age isn’t always the issue and many times the resulting defects and injuries could have been avoided altogether. But what is the real link between premature birth and birth defects, and how can a competent birth injury attorney potentially help you pick up the pieces and move forward?

What Is a Premature Birth Anyway?

A preterm labor birth is any birth that lasts between 20 and 37 weeks. Birthweight and development are significantly affected by premature labor as infants born at 24 weeks average a birth weight between 1.2 and 2.2 pounds. Whereas infants born at 36 weeks average between 4.8 and 6.5 pounds at birth. The earlier the labor begins, the more risk your child is for potentially severe complications. So proper care and attention are essential to extend the pregnancy as far as possible.

What Are the Complications of a Premature Birth?

Survival rates for preterm infants vary based on the delivery week. For example:

·     22 weeks and under premies have little to no chance of survival

·     23 weeks rises to 19% survival rate

·     26-week deliveries have a 77% survival rate

However, babies born so prematurely are almost guaranteed to have serious health issues. And even those born between 34 and 37 weeks are at high risk for suffering a birth defect or traumatic birth injury. Health problems may include apnea, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in the brain, intestinal damage known as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), or potential heart failure. A premature birth can also cause anemia, jaundice, sensory loss in vision or hearing, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and serious infections such as meningitis or pneumonia. But that’s not all. Premature birth can also lead to lifelong challenges such as asthma, communication disorders, physical development issues, learning problems, anti-social and behavioral complications. But premature birth is also a major factor in the development of neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy and autism.

In fact, according to a national study involving 13 states, birth defects are twice as likely to occur in pregnancies ending between 24 and 36 weeks. Multiple births, previous premature delivery, and maternal age can lead early labor. But so can sexually transmitted diseases, kidney disorders, clotting or bleeding disorders, placental abruption, uterine problems, and untreated infections… all of which your medical team should be able to address and correct during the pregnancy. If you suspect malpractice may have had a part in your child’s ongoing medical complications, the right birth injury attorney may be able to help you seek the justice you deserve.