Expert Answers
dano7744 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Generally, a preemie is an infant born before term.  The normal gestation period for a pregnant female is 40 weeks. Premature infants are those born before the 37th week of gestation. Most OB-GYN physicians will go to great lengths to prevent the mother from delivering the baby before term. Premature infants are born with a multitude of physical problems. The main problem with pmi's is that the lung tissue is not fully developed, this causes respiratory insufficiency. Preemies lack a substance in the lungs called surfactant, this substance is necessary for optimal lung function after the child is born. Preemies may also be born with cardiovascular problems because, again, the heart and other systems are not completely formed before the 40 week period. However, most infants born at 38 or 39 weeks have minimal problems associated with the gestational age.

crazypete | Student

A premature infant that is a baby born before 37 weeks gestation.

A premature infant has organs that are not fully developed. The infant needs special care in a nursery until the organ systems have developed enough to sustain life without medical support. This may take weeks to months.

A premature infant will have a low birth weight. Common symptoms in a premature infant include:

  • Body hair
  • Episodes of absent breathing
  • Enlarged clitoris (female infant)
  • Lung problems
  • Poor feeding
  • Small scrotum, smooth without ridges (male infant)
  • Soft, flexible ear cartilage
  • Thin, smooth, shiny skin
  • Transparent skin (can see veins under skin)
  • Usually inactive -- however, may be unusually active immediately after birth
  • Weak cry
  • Wrinkled features