Multiple Pregnancy: Preterm Birth

Overview

Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. When delivery occurs between 20 and 37 weeks of pregnancy, it's called a preterm birth. A baby born early is called preterm (or premature). Preterm babies are sometimes called "preemies."

Multiple pregnancies rarely last for the usual 40 weeks. For twins, the average time to delivery is 35 weeks. For triplets, the average time is 32 weeks. For quadruplets, the average time is 30 weeks.footnote 1 The earlier babies are born, the greater their risk of serious health problems.

When babies are born too early, their major organs aren't fully formed. As a result, preterm infants may not be able to eat, breathe, or stay warm on their own. They may also have jaundice, infection, or anemia.

After delivery, the neonatal staff will watch over and stabilize your preterm babies. If your babies' gestational age is less than 36 weeks, your babies may be moved to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for specialized care. The obstetric staff will care for you.

Related Information

    References

    Citations

    1. Martin JA, et al. (2011). Births: Final data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports: From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, 60(1): 1–70. Accessed October 14, 2020.

    Credits

    Current as of: February 23, 2022

    Author: Healthwise Staff
    Medical Review:
    Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
    Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
    Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
    William Gilbert MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine

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