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"Preterm" vs. "Premature"-- Am I the only one who knows the difference?!

post #1 of 120
Thread Starter 
I've met several babies who were introduced to me as "preemies" or "premature" babes who were just preterm. This irritates me something fierce! These babies had no breathing difficulties, they weren't sick, they didn't have trouble nursing... they were small but they weren't outside of the range of average, even. The last one I met weighed 6 lbs, 12 oz upon birth at 37 weeks.

My son was born at 37 weeks, and he *did* spend a week in NICU, but he wasn't premature, just preterm. A friend of mine had a baby at 34 weeks who was over 9 pounds at birth and who *was* premature.

Preterm= born before the end of week 37.
Premature=born before their oragans are sufficiently developed.

The vast majority of premature babies are preterm, but most preterm babies aren't premature! It drives me crazy when people mix these up, it seems like a deliberate attempt to make their babies out to be sick or tiny or something. :
post #2 of 120
Well, my baby girl was post-term (if that's a word!) That said, I honestly did not know the distinction between premature and preterm, and I consider myself to be pretty well-educated/well-read (even neurotic!) about all things pregnancy, baby, toddler... I am willing to bet many others also don't know the real distinction - perhaps?
post #3 of 120
Well I just learned something. Thank you. I think it is largely colloqual usage. The fact that both abbreviate to "premmie" doesn't help either.
post #4 of 120
i did some googling, and it seems that the words "preterm" and "premature" are used interchangeably among both laypeople and medical personnel alike. where are you getting your information? just curious...





post #5 of 120
Thread Starter 
From Discovery Health
Premature babies have not developed completely. The earlier a baby is born, the less developed its organs are. Premature babies tend to have very specific problems related to their underdeveloped organs. Sometimes the treatments that they receive for their underdeveloped organs also can lead to problems. For example, a baby born after only 24 weeks in the womb doesn't have fully developed lungs. Because of this it cannot breathe well on its own. It will probably need the help of an artificial breathing machine, or ventilator.
They do say that a premature baby has spent less than 37 weeks in the womb, but that's not strictly the case. The overwhelming majority of premature babies are preterm, but rarely (very rarely.. something like 1 in 500,000, maybe?) a baby will be born who is not mature but who has been in utero for more than 37 weeks. These babies often have a younger 'gestational age' than their due date would suggest and their ages are adjusted to reflect that.

Preterm babies are very common, though, and most of them have organs which are developed enough that they can survive outside of the womb without medical intervention. I'm working not only on the definitions of the words themselves (prematuremeaning "before maturity" and preterm meaning "before the end of the gestational period") but on the definitions which were clearly delineated when Eli went to the NICU (where it was, for obvious reasons, much more important to make the distinction.)

T Postterm and postmaturity are also both words and are two different things. A postterm baby is one who has gone past the due time (42 weeks), a postmature baby is one who has been in utero long enough that the placenta has started to deteriorate/ceased to work effectively. Most postmature babies are postterm, but most postterm babies are not postmature, from what I recall. I was both. I met a woman who's son was not postterm but who was postmature; his gestational age was adjusted after his birth to reflect that, and he was briefly hospitalized to deal with the complications of his postmaturity.
post #6 of 120
I know the difference and it bugs me when people use them wrong. I had a premature baby. had she stayed in for a few more days even though I woulod have still not made it to my 35th week she would have been just fine . She was a great big strappin' thing - 19 1/4 inches and 5#11oz. HUge for a 34 weeker and had very mild problems (except for that eating thing).

it is like people are so enraptured with preemies an they go around wearing it like a badge of honor when there babies were only a week or two early and use thier adjusted age . . . it is weird for me. Itis like they think it makes thier baby extra special and dpecial in all the ways each baby is special just isn't good enough. They want them to be in the preemie club. If they only knew how much that club sucked to belong to.
post #7 of 120
My babe was 3 weeks early and I never thought he was out of the normal range for gestation. He had no health problems associated with that.

My friend just had a baby 3 weeks early and her babe just spent 2 weeks in the NICU.
post #8 of 120
As a mum of a 29 week premature infant, it does really irk me too. "The club" isn't nearly as cool as some people seem to think it is. Yep, it certainly is cool to have to deal with cpaps, ng tubes, p02 monitors, bradycardia, tachycardia, blood transfusions, and physiotherapy every week for 2 years and Erik didn't even have MAJOR complications. We consider ourselves very fortunate. There are ventilators, NEC, ROP, sepsis, etc. NICU time isn't fun and I can't stand it when someone says their kid was premature at 37 weeks (even though they were perfectly healthy and could go home the next day).

end :

All babies are very special regardless of when they were born.
post #9 of 120
My baby was born at 37w0d and I have never described him as "premature" but I have told people he "came early" and that he would have benefitted from another week or two cooking. Which is what my LC and midwives told me, since we had such a very difficult time with breastfeeding in the beginning. He was sleepy, had a weak suck, and had jaundice that was tough to clear up since it was so hard to get him to eat. I was told by every medical professional who saw him that he was weaker, sleepier, etc. than a 40-week baby and we had to take some extra steps to make sure he ate enough. So I have never told people he was "premature" but there really isn't a different word that describes our situation. I have just told people he was "a little bit early."

to all of you whose babies had tough medical problems--I'm sure it is aggravating when it seems like people trivialize something so serious. There's some kind of funny cultural fascination with the tiniest, most vulnerable babies--remember when Cabbage Patch Kids dolls came in "Preemie" versions?
post #10 of 120
It really bothered me when people called my first baby "premature" or "premie"
She was born at 37 weeks (probably 36, since I have long cycles, but you know, they go by LMP) and was never in NICU even though her lowest weight was 4lb2oz.
Like the Mama above, I'd tell people "she was just a bit early"
post #11 of 120
My babe was not actually postterm or postmature (thanks for the definition, OP). She was 41.5 weeks, but it sure felt like the longest 10 days of my life!

I've been thinking about this and believe that if my babe had been preterm or premature, I most certainly would have understood the distinction because it would have been pertinent to my situation. Since it wasn't, I didn't bother to learn the dif.

I can understand why it would irk you all, though. Thanks to this thread, I won't confuse the terms!
post #12 of 120
My son was preterm ,born at 36 weeks but he was very healthy and 6Ibs 8ozs, 19 1/2 inches, nursed soon after birth perfectly. I say he was a little early.
I have no romantisized notions about having a premie at all. I know that having my son a little early is no where in the same league as having a premie, it's not the same thing at all.

There is woman in my homeschool group who had her son at 36weeks (a month ago or so) and he weighed over 8Ibs but had to have a feeding tube for a week (I think maybe less though) because he was loosing weight and wouldn't eat well. He had some other problems too, none life threatening. I still wouldn't consider this baby a premie but preterm.
post #13 of 120
This drives me nuts too! My son was born at 33.5 weeks. We lost him twice the first night and he was airlifted to a bigger hospital in the city (they even sent a special team from their hospital to come get him). He was in the NICU with all the tubes and IVs and everything else. And then I have people whose child was born at 36 weeks and was 7 lbs and never spent a minute at the NICU saying they know what I went through because there child was premature. Bull! Until you give birth and have to leave without your baby, and see your child hooked up to machines just to keep them alive then you don't know. I personally do think that most people want attention in any way they can get it. They want the pity "oh my child was premature, poor me."
post #14 of 120
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by wakeUpMama
My baby was born at 37w0d and I have never described him as "premature" but I have told people he "came early" and that he would have benefitted from another week or two cooking.
I usually say that Eli was "medium rare" and needed a bit longer to cook.

Using their "adjusted ages".. : Some acquaintences of ours use their son's adjusted age (he was born at 37w2d) to justify the fact that he's not doing exactly the same things that our friend's nephew is doing on the same schedule (said nephew is about three weeks older than this baby).

I still don't understand why people think it's cool. I found it absolutely gut wrenching to have to go home without my son, I was heartbroken that he couldn't be in my room and that my nieces couldn't visit him. It was the longest and most horrific week of my entire life, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I'm really thankful that I didn't have to go through what the parents of premature babies do. It's not all about putting doll clothes on a little person. :
post #15 of 120
I have both premature (32 weeker) and a preterm (36 weeker) experiences. I gotta tell you guys though, my 32 weeker had higher apgar scores at 1 and 5 min. than did my 36 weeker...how weird is that? My dd weighed 3 lbs, 13 oz at birth, but required no oxygen (my 36 weeker required about 3 min of oxygen to 'pinken' him up...lovely steriod shots, but was still considered to be premature, IV fed (isn't it great when your baby has an IV in her head?), then tube and finally was able to bottlefeed (wasn't breastfed due to only education about it from my warped mother :mad). She stayed in the hospital for 14 days. Luckily we were in a rural hospital with no NICU. Her 'NICU' was just a different part of the nursery. I know that if we had been able to make it to a larger hospital in a larger city, she would have ended up in a NICU. I hate it too when people think that because their child was born 1 day before 38 weeks that they have a premature baby. It's also weird to have a child who wears the cloths size that he should be wearing!!!! My baby girl was (and still is) pretty petite!
post #16 of 120
I had never heard of that distinction, although it makes sense. Anyone who has ever discussed it with me (including my mother, who is a CNM) has used the terms interchangeably. In fact, since my daughter was born preterm (36 weeks) my mother has kind of freaked out about how I have a higher risk for a preterm or premature birth the second time around. I have told people that my daughter was premature, but I also add, 'But not very. She was only 4 weeks early, and she was fine, just a little small."

I don't say it to be cool, or be part of some club. It was always my understanding that the words had the same meaning. I also think it is important that my doctor knows about it, because of the increased risk factor. I never have tried to say that I can in any way understand or compare my experience to that of a parent who has had a premature birth, because I know that they are very different.
post #17 of 120
I admitted a woman to L&D the other day who told me her first was "a bit of a premie" - born at 39 wks gestation :LOL. Uh - NOT!
post #18 of 120
Oh, Mom2six that's laughable!
post #19 of 120
Mom2six, I had the exact same experiance!

My ds was born at 31weeks, 5 days. His adjusted age was not so much an issue before, but he's almost 11 months old so now people are noticing that he doesn't quite seem like a 1 year old so I am always saying "well, technically he's 9 months since he was 2 months premature". I had a mom say "oh, my baby was a premie too. She was born a week early". :headscratch:
post #20 of 120
I honestly thought they meant the same thing.
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