When I learned the due date of my firstborn, I treated it as a kind of magic number: This is it! But life had other plans, and my son arrived one week early. Luckily all was well, but that's unfortunately not always the case for the millions of preemies born every year. So what are the reasons why babies come early, turning those birth date expectations upside down for millions of moms?
A baby's due date is calculated at 40 weeks after the first missed period, but "a mother is considered 'full term' at 37 weeks," explains Dr. Monica McHenry Svets, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio. "Prior to this time, we loosely divide preterm labors into categories like early versus late preterm." While the majority of women do deliver between 37 and 42 weeks, about 11 percent of mothers give birth prematurely, according to statistics quoted by Parents.
What accounts for the early arrivals? Tons of reasons: some of them related to the mother's health, some to the baby's, and some are factors that can't be controlled. And in some cases, babies come early for no apparent reason. The important thing, of course, is ensuring the safety of both mother and child. "Childbirth is never risk-free, but delivery at 37 weeks or after is fairly safe overall," Dr. Svets tells Romper. "The earlier the delivery, the riskier it is for the fetus." Among the health concerns for a premature infant are infections, intracranial (brain) bleeding, underdeveloped lungs, blindness, deafness, and developmental delays, according to The Mayo Clinic.
If you're expecting, the odds are that your child will be one of the many who arrive on or close to schedule, but these are some of the more common reasons why your baby might have an earlier birthday than anticipated.