In general, a normal human pregnancy is about 40 weeks long (9.2 months). Health care providers now define “full-term” birth as birth that occurs between 39 weeks and 40 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.1 Infants born during this time are considered full-term infants.
Infants born in the 37th and 38th weeks of pregnancy—previously called term but now referred to as “early term”—face more health risks than do those born at 39 or 40 weeks.2
Deliveries before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered “preterm” or premature:
“Late preterm” refers to 34 weeks through 36 weeks of pregnancy. Infants born during this time are considered late-preterm infants, but they face many of the same health challenges as preterm infants. More than 70% of preterm infants are born during the late-preterm time frame.3
Preterm birth is the most common cause of infant death and is the leading cause of long-term disability in children.4 Many organs, including the brain, lungs, and liver, are still developing in the final weeks of pregnancy. The earlier the delivery, the higher the risk of serious disability or death.
Infants born prematurely are at risk for cerebral palsy (a group of nervous system disorders that affect control of movement and posture and limit activity), developmental delays, and vision and hearing problems.
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