Babies Born at 32 Weeks

Normal babies are born at 37-40 weeks gestation. These “term “babies are fully developed and can easily breathe on their own. Babies born at 32 weeks gestation are “preterm” and may not be fully developed.

Babies born at 32 weeks have an excellent chance of survival because the neonatal care for preterm infants has drastically improved over the years. Even so, these babies are not fully developed and have a higher risk of breathing difficulties, learning disabilities, and cerebral palsy, among other things.

What Causes My Baby to Arrive Early?

Babies can be born prematurely because of either a fetal or maternal problem, or both. Many cases of preterm birth are simply not understood. The most common reasons why a baby is born prematurely are the following:

  • There is a multiple gestation pregnancy with the mother carrying two or more babies.
  • The placenta has problems with early separation or insufficiency.
  • The mother has some kind of infection.
  • The mother is using illicit drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • The uterus is irritable or the cervix is incompetent and can’t hold the pregnancy in.

Development of Babies Born at 32 Weeks

The good news is that 98 percent of babies born at 32 weeks survive the neonatal period. The average weight of a baby born at this time is between 3-5 pounds with an overall length of 18-19 inches. These babies are considered moderately preterm. Many of them have the ability to breathe spontaneously and just need extra oxygen by nasal cannula to help them be fully oxygenated.

During this period of gestation, the lungs aren’t usually completely developed but the baby will practice breathing by breathing in the amniotic fluid. Some babies have a full head of hair, while others will just have a few wisps of hair on their head.

Boy babies who are preterm usually have both testicles already descended into the scrotal sac. A few, however, won’t yet have both testicles descended at birth but will have a testicle descend sometime after his birth. Two thirds of all boys who are born with one or both testicles undescended at the time of birth will spontaneously descend their testicles by the age of 1 year.

At 32 weeks gestation, all five senses of the baby are fully active and they are completely aware of their surroundings. Babies born at 32 weeks gestation are far less likely to have problems with serious disability than those who are born earlier.

There are neonatal units that help give your premature baby the specialized care he/she needs. Things like low blood pressure and blood glucose level, infection, and low body temperature remain a problem until they get older and more mature.

What Happens if My Baby Was Born Prematurely?

Depending on the level of care your baby needs at 32 weeks, you may only be able to see your baby for a brief period of time before they are sent to the care of the neonatal specialists. This can be a difficult time for parents who expected to be able to hold their baby right away. You will need support from loved ones during this challenging period of time.

After your baby has stabilized, you will be able to participate in some of his/her cares. For example, you can see your baby often and change his/her diaper. Feeding the baby, massaging and holding him/her for brief periods of time are all possible when your baby is born preterm. At this time, your baby needs the combined help of medical specialists as well as the tender loving care you and your partner can provide him.

Breastfeeding can be a challenge for babies born at 32 weeks but it is still preferable, especially at this age because it helps prevent infection. Because the baby is too small to actually breastfeed the normal way, you may be asked to pump your breasts for milk which is then given to the baby through a bottle or feeding tube.

Babies born at 32 weeks gestation often need to spend several weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Fortunately, most of these infants continue to grow and will catch up with babies born at term with little evidence of prematurity as they age. If you are curious about when your baby will finally come home, you need to know that they must be able to achieve several milestones in order to be able to do that. For example, they need to maintain their body temperature, eat spontaneously and breathe on room air without difficulty. These 3requirements are usually not fully meet at 32 weeks so it will take some time.

What Is It Like to Have Babies Born at 32 Weeks?

Women sharing their experience of having a baby at 32 weeks gestation mentioned having their baby on oxygen and CPAP after birth with difficulties in breastfeeding and maintaining body temperature. Many indicated that their baby needed to be in the neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks but that, overall they did well.

One woman indicated that neonatal jaundice was a problem in their preterm infant and required being under UV lights for several days before the condition resolved. Feeding and breathing were less of an issue. Still another mother said her son, born at 33 weeks gestation, had very few problems with breathing and wanted to suckle right away. He was eventually able to breastfeed and is now an older infant who is no different than a baby born at term.

Here are more pictures of babies born at 32 weeks: