Discovering you're pregnant can be an exciting and joyous thing, but it can also be fraught with fear and uncertainty. We do things every single to insure our developing babies are healthy and safe in our wombs until they're ready to be born. We go to the doctor regularly, we take vitamins, we lay off certain foods and beverages. Every day inside is one day closer to full term, and that's the goal when you're baking a baby!
Unfortunately, lots of babies don't make it to full term, for various reasons. When you were pregnant, you likely heard that 24 weeks was the magic time - that's long been considered the point of viability, when a baby could survive outside of the womb. Obviously, that's very premature, and babies born as early as 24 weeks often face an uphill battle. But as medical science advances, the point of viability has gotten earlier, and survival rates of preemies and micro-preemies have steadily improved around the world.
Studies show that the survival rates for preemies born as early as 22 weeks have gotten better over the last 40 years, and babies born weighing as little as one pound are able to survive. Earlier this year, a baby in Japan born at 24 weeks weighing just 9.44 ounces was released from the hospital in good health after just five months. Sweden hold the record for neonatal viability, with 77% of babies born between 22 and 26 weeks in 2014-2016 surviving for one year and longer.
Additionally, 20% of babies born at 22 weeks survive, and 8 in 10 babies born at 26 weeks eventually leave the hospital. Part of the reason for this bump in survival rates in Sweden? Almost 90% of deliveries happen in one of six hospitals in the country that are equipped with top-level NICUs.
The survival rates in other developed countries like the UK and US aren't quite on par with what's happening in Sweden (but are still improving). Studies done in the last few years show that about half of babies born at 26-27 weeks in the UK and US survive, and about 13% of babies born between 22 and 26 weeks in US hospitals between 2008 and 2016 survived. Obviously, there is a remarkably higher risk of complications with preemies and micro-preemies, with many going on to have physical or developmental delays related to their premature birth. But the advances in preterm survival certainly give hope to many parents.