We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Care of Premature Infants FREE

Janet M. Torpy, MD, Writer; Cassio Lynm, MA, Illustrator; Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor
JAMA. 2003;289(6):796. doi:10.1001/jama.289.6.796.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

During a pregnancy, the baby grows in the mother's uterus (womb) usually for 38 to 40 weeks. When a baby is born prematurely (too early), the baby may require special medical care. The level of extra care needed often depends on how early the birth occurs. Premature babies weigh much less than full-term infants because they have not had the full amount of time for growth inside the uterus.

Babies born very early in pregnancy are extremely small and fragile. They may weigh less than 2 pounds. They require specialized intensive care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Doctors and nurses who work in NICUs have specialized education to care for premature infants and their problems. Equipment in a NICU, such as incubators and ventilators, is made especially for premature infants and their special needs. Health problems for babies who are born prematurely may not end when the baby goes home from the hospital. They may need special medical care as they grow older.

The February 12, 2003, issue of JAMA includes an article about children who were born prematurely.


  • Inability to breathe or breathe regularly on their own, possibly requiring oxygen and a ventilator

  • Bradycardia (low heart rate)

  • Body temperature regulation (the baby cannot maintain his or her own body heat)

  • Feeding and growth problems because of an immature digestive system

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and possible brain damage due to buildup of bilirubin, a blood breakdown product)

  • Anemia (not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues)

  • Infections


  • Apnea, episodes of stopping breathing, which may require special monitoring, even at home

  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a chronic lung disease that may or may not improve as the child grows

  • Hearing or vision problems related to immature nerves or treatment side effects

  • Developmental delay and learning disabilities from brain damage related to immaturity

Because premature babies can be very ill, especially extremely premature infants, decisions about treatments can be difficult for parents, doctors, and nurses. Medical research studies provide information about treatments and the likely course of an illness, but they cannot predict how each baby will recover from being born too early. Preventing premature birth is important. Regular prenatal (before birth) medical care, avoiding any exposure to tobacco smoke, avoiding alcohol and illegal substances, and control of chronic medical problems are all ways that women can help maintain a healthy pregnancy to the full term.



To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page Index on JAMA 's Web site at www.jama.com. They are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on high-risk infants was published in the October 25, 2000, issue; one on low birth weight was published in the January 9, 2002, issue; and one on delivering a healthy infant was published in the March 27, 2002, issue.

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA . The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Nemours Foundation (KidsHealth)




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles