The Growth
You Can’t See

Delivering the Facts on Preterm Birth

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Staying pregnant to full term, or 40 weeks, is one of the best ways to give babies the time they need to grow. Preterm birth—or delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy—can prevent growth and development from happening inside a baby’s body during the final weeks of pregnancy.1,2

Read on for important information about preterm birth and The Growth You Can’t See, and download a brochure here.

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Dr. Judette Louis, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist
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What is Preterm Birth?

Preterm birth is the delivery of a baby less than 37 weeks of pregnancy.2 Preterm birth is more common than you may think. In the United States, approximately 400,000 babies are born too early—or preterm—each year.3

Approximately 1 in 10 babies is born premature4

Babies Continue to Develop, Even in those Final Weeks of Pregnancy

Important developments occur during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Babies need every week inside the womb to grow and develop, inside and out.2,4,5 Regardless of birth weight, babies born early are also more likely to be re-hospitalized.8

Around week 35, the brain is only 2/3 the size of a full-term baby’s.5
Hearing is not fully developed until full term.6
A baby’s liver is not mature enough to prevent jaundice until full term.5,7
A baby may not have enough body fat to keep temperature steady until week 37.5,7
Breathing, sucking and swallowing reflexes are not ready until 34 weeks or later. A preterm birth may cause feeding and nutrition problems.5,7
Lungs continue to develop until the end of pregnancy, and babies may have trouble breathing if born early.5
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Risk Factors

It's important to know and understand the risk factors for preterm birth. Preterm birth is often unexpected. Some women may have an early delivery due to a medical situation, and sometimes one may have a greater chance of preterm birth due to known risk factors.1,2

Leading Risk Factors

  • Prior preterm birth (unexpectedly delivered a baby before 37 weeks in the past)
  • Pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • Problems with uterus or cervix
  • African-American heritage

Other Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure, stress, diabetes, or being overweight or underweight
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs
  • Short time between pregnancies
  • Certain infections during pregnancy

Understanding Your Risk: Health & Family Segment

Learn if you may be at risk for preterm birth. Watch this segment from Health & Family to hear from a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist on preterm birth and its risk factors, and from a mom of two premature babies (26 and 23 weeks), who also shares her experiences.

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Signs & Symptoms of
Preterm Labor

Pregnant women should be familiar with the signs of preterm labor. If any signs or symptoms of preterm labor occur before a baby’s due date, contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Contractions, or tightening of the belly muscles, every ten minutes or less

Belly cramps with or without diarrhea

Low, dull backache

Cramps resembling menstrual cramps

Feeling of pressure in the pelvic area

A change in vaginal discharge

How to Lower Your Risk of Preterm Birth

If you think you may be at risk for preterm birth, help protect your baby and seek early prenatal care. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can reduce your risk.

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A healthcare provider can help with ways to lower risk,
including possible treatment options.

At Risk for Preterm Birth: Pregnancy Stories

Hear how other moms learned about their preterm risk through these stories and video.

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“I was stunned to learn that delivering prematurely put me at an even higher risk for another preterm birth. Understanding your risk for preterm birth is important to a healthy pregnancy."
- Teletia, Preemie mom
"I've had two preterm births, and from my experience, I encourage expecting moms to talk with their doctor or nurse, especially if they think something is wrong during their pregnancy. The doctor or nurse will help them determine if there is an issue and how to help them have the best chance for a full term pregnancy."
- Julieta, Preemie mom

Free Educational Resources

If you’re a healthcare provider, patient advocacy organization, insurance company or someone interested in sharing educational materials, you can order The Growth You Can’t See brochure and/or a poster (in English or Spanish) and download a digital toolkit for free, including the brochure, poster and informational videos. Some materials are available in multiple languages.

The Growth You Can't See Poster

Brochure: Delivering the Facts on Preterm Birth

Poster: The Growth You Can’t See


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