Are you expecting a child, or do you have kids already? Are you worried about premature birth or the development of your preemie baby, specifically one born at or before 24 weeks gestation? Well, let me tell ya. It's normal to worry. As parents and caregivers, we all want what's best for our little ones; their future is our biggest concern.
But fret not! I am here to offer some insight into what you can expect when it comes to a 24-week-old baby’s future.
The Developmental Timeline
A full-term pregnancy lasts between 38 and 42 weeks—the average being around 40 weeks—so it makes sense that babies born before this time need extra care to reach milestones at the same rate as their full-term counterparts. That said, with medical advancements today, there is hope for most neonates in NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units).
Accordingly, while consistency might play catch up with these fragile humans' developments compared to other adequately-born newborns, here are some things they usually achieve as they grow:
Four Weeks Old
- Slow weight gain
- Nerve cell growth in the brain
Six Weeks Old
- Increased blood-oxygen levels
- Able to suppress breathing problems
- Eye movement perception improvement
Eight Weeks Old
- Regular feeding via either tube or mouth-feedings
- Makes facial expressions
Twelve Weeks Old
- Improved lung function
- Digestive problems addressed
As old age approaches:
Both Males & Females:
15 WEEKS OLD TO SIX MONTHS OF AGE
•Learn how-to grasp objects.
•Start rolling over by themselves from front/backside-needs support.
•Begin keeping head straight sitting position without support.
•Eye-tracking ability improvement.
SIX MONTHS OLD TO NINE MONTHS OF AGE
• Can sit themselves with or without support. Hey, that's a big deal!
Look how far they come in just six short months!
The Medical Side
Although some preemie babies do suffer from long-term medical issues after this gestational period, there are many things caregivers and doctors can do to prevent potential problems. Some of these include:
- Keeping the baby warm: premature infants lack body fat, which makes it difficult for them to regulate their temperature on their own
- Managing fluid levels: infants born prematurely often have trouble regulating fluids properly because their kidneys aren’t fully developed
- Oxygen therapy: preemies may need help breathing due to underdeveloped lungs
It’s hard to give a definitive answer when it comes to long-term outcomes for 24-week preemies; each individual is different, and several factors come into play—like genetics, environment, nurture etc. But don't let that get you down—it's important not to make assumptions based on worst-case scenarios.
Many premature babies grow up healthy and happy right alongside full-term children. Modern technology has also made huge strides forward in recent years , meaning more than 90% of all newborns born at 28 weeks old now survive until leaving the hospital (Stoll et al.,2004). Don’t forget that your child’s prognosis will be influenced by various environmental aspects too—the care he/she receives in the neonatal unit, as well as supportive family members' input.
Khoo et al. (2018) evidenced improved survival rates among very low birth weight preterm neonates over time; thus affirming NICUs continue making significant progress regarding the health status of extremely vulnerable neonates such as those in question here. Though tough, raising a preemie is doable with patience, diligence, trust in medical empowerment and the love of supportive family members.
So hang in there! Though we can only control so much when it comes to our children’s futures, what we can control is how prepared and determined we are to help them grow into happy and healthy adults.