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A birth is considered premature (also called preterm) if it occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature births make up 7.7% of births in Québec, which translates into more than 6,000 preemies born every year. About 1,200 of these babies will come into the world before 32 weeks.

Many factors can influence the risk of a preterm birth, without automatically causing it: maternal age, a previous premature birth, maternal infections, gestational blood pressure or diabetes, certain health problems in the baby (growth delay, malformation), the number of babies expected, premature cervical dilation, and the pregnant woman’s lifestyle (tobacco, alcohol and drug use). In some cases, the cause will remain unknown.

Premature births are usually divided into two categories:

  • Spontaneous prematurity, often the result of the membranes rupturing (water breaking) early, or early spontaneous labour 
  • Induced prematurity, chosen by the obstetrical team because of risks to mother and child. This decision is most often made in cases of severe high blood pressure, severe growth delay or maternal bleeding.

The main health conditions associated with the onset of premature birth are described briefly here.

The different types of prematurityThe shockMain causesPossible complications of prematurityTaking care of a preemieReturning home with a preemieCorrected age


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