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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Preemies?

Every day in the United States, more than 1,400 babies are born before their time, making premature birth the number-one cause of death and long-term disability among newborns. Small and underdeveloped, preemies face oversized challenges, but many turn out just fine. Take this short quiz to test your knowledge of premature birth.

1. Improvements in prenatal care have made premature births less common than they used to be.

True

False

2. Nearly half of all premature births occur for no apparent reason.

True

False

3. Which of the following steps is LEAST likely to lower a woman's risk of delivering prematurely?

a. Long periods of bed rest

b. Maintaining a healthy weight

c. Avoiding cigarettes

d. Getting regular prenatal care

4. Which of the following raises the risk of premature delivery?

a. Maternal diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes

b. Multiple fetuses (twins, triplets, etc.)

c. History of premature birth

d. All of the above

5. Premature babies rarely leave the hospital before their original due date.

True

False

6. A premature baby who weighs three pounds at birth has a good chance of growing into a normal-sized child and adult.

True

False

7. What is the survival rate for babies who are born 12 weeks too early (27 weeks of gestation)?

a. Less than 20 percent

b. 50 percent

c. 70 percent

d. More than 90 percent

8. When you bring your baby home from the hospital, you should do which of the following?

a. Pick her up as little as possible

b. Touch and hold her frequently

c. Talk or sing to her

d. Both b and c

Answers

1. Improvements in prenatal care have made premature births less common than they used to be.

The correct answer is: False

More women are getting prenatal care than ever before, but the problem of premature births is only worsening. According to the March of Dimes, the odds that a baby will be born too early grew nearly 35 percent between 1981 and 2007.

2. Nearly half of all premature births occur for no apparent reason.

The correct answer is: True

According to the March of Dimes, nearly 50 percent of premature births can't be explained. In the words of Charles Lockwood, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine, "Rates of premature delivery are high even among women who do everything just right."

3. Which of the following steps is LEAST likely to lower a woman's risk of delivering prematurely?

The correct answer is: a. Long periods of bed rest

According to Siobhan Dolan, MD, assistant medical director for the March of Dimes, there's no evidence that long periods of bed rest can help prevent premature delivery. In contrast, women who maintain a healthy weight, avoid cigarettes, and get good prenatal care are definitely stacking the odds in their favor.

4. Which of the following raises the risk of premature delivery?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

By checking your medical history, your doctor can determine whether you've had multiple pregnancies or other conditions that could raise your risk of delivering prematurely. Women at high risk for premature delivery should also see a doctor frequently throughout the pregnancy.

5. Premature babies rarely leave the hospital before their original due date.

The correct answer is: False

Terry Sauer, RN, manager of the neonatal intensive care unit at Deaconess Billings Hospital in Billings, Montana, says almost all of the premature babies in her care -- some as many as five weeks premature -- go home before their original due dates. Of course, babies with significant health problems often need to stay in the hospital longer.

6. A premature baby who weighs three pounds at birth has a good chance of growing into a normal-sized child and adult.

The correct answer is: True

Premature babies often grow slowly at first, but most of them catch up within a few years. However, a few premature babies remain undersized for the rest of their lives. According to a report from the University of Wisconsin, stunted growth is most common among babies who were less than 2.5 pounds at birth, who were small for their gestational age at birth, who suffered a long illness, or who were slow to gain weight in the hospital nursery.

7. What is the survival rate for babies who are born 12 weeks too early (27 weeks of gestation)?

The correct answer is: d. More than 90 percent

Thanks to modern care, these extremely premature babies have an excellent chance of surviving. The outlook isn't as bright for babies born earlier: According to a report from the University of Wisconsin, the survival rate for babies born 15 weeks prematurely (24 weeks of gestation) is about 40 to 70 percent.

8. When you bring your baby home from the hospital, you should do which of the following?

The correct answer is: d. Both b and c (touch and hold her frequently and sing to her)

Although your baby is small, she won't break when you hold her. In fact, holding her may be the best thing for her. Your doctor will be sure you have all the information you need when you bring your baby home, so relax and enjoy her. Cuddling and letting her hear your voice will help your baby settle into her new home.

-- Chris Woolston, MS, is a health and medical writer with a master's degree in biology. His reporting on occupational health earned him an award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists..

References

Interview with Terry Sauer, RN, manager of Deaconess Billings Clinic Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Interview with Siobhan Dolan, MD, assistant medical director of the March of Dimes.

Interview with Charles Lockwood, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine.

March of Dimes. Fact sheet: The growing problem of immaturity.

University of Wisconsin and the Center for Perinatal Care at Meriter Hospital. For Parents of Preemies: Answers to commonly asked questions.

March of Dimes. Prematurity: What We Know and What We Don't. May 2007. http://www.marchofdimes.com/prematurity/21191_5578.asp

March of Dimes. The Mystery of Premature Birth. December 2007. http://www.marchofdimes.com/prematurity/21209_11560.asp

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