You might be asking yourself, what if my baby is born at 36 weeks?
Surely, it’s so close to the end of pregnancy, everything will be fine?
That’s probably true, but your doctors will most likely want to check over a few things before you head home, and bub might take some extra time to adjust to being in the outside world.
Here’s what you need to know to feel at ease.
In this article 📝
- What does a baby born at 36 weeks look like?
- What happens if a baby is born at 36 weeks?
- Do babies born at 36 weeks need NICU?
- Can a 36-week baby go home?
- Is it safe to deliver at 36 weeks?
- Are babies’ lungs developed at 36 weeks?
- Do babies born at 36 weeks develop slower?
What does a baby born at 36 weeks look like?
Looking for a ‘baby born at 36 weeks’ picture?
Let’s paint one for you…
A baby born at 36 weeks will probably have quite shiny, red-toned skin and a liberal covering of body hair.
They won’t quite have the fat stores or muscle tone of a full-term infant, but they won’t be too far off from what you’d expect.
A 36-week-old has an average weight of somewhere between 5.5 to 6.5 pounds and is around 17.5 to 19 inches in length – very close to the weight and length of a full-term baby.
What happens if a baby is born at 36 weeks?
Babies born at 36 weeks are classed as “late preterm,” so they still fall within the preterm gestational age.
Their survival rate is just the same as that for babies born at full term, but they are still at a slightly higher risk for some initial complications.
They may still encounter breathing difficulties, jaundice, and low birth weight, and be more prone to sepsis or other infections due to their premature arrival.
Their feeding reflex may be weak, so they could need some extra help to gain weight, too.
Do babies born at 36 weeks need NICU?
According to one study, around 5% of babies born at 36 weeks will be admitted to NICU, and the majority of these cases will be due to respiratory distress.
However, the outcomes are generally very good for babies born at 36 weeks.
Can a 36-week baby go home?
Even though many babies born earlier than 36 weeks might be ready to head home around this time, your baby still might need a bit of time in hospital before being discharged.
Your doctors won’t want to risk having to re-admit you after going home too soon, so it’s best to let your baby get the care they need now and be confident in going home when you’re all ready.
Is it safe to deliver at 36 weeks?
Unless there is a medical reason for inducing labor at 36 weeks, it’s safer to deliver your baby as close as possible to your due date at 40 weeks.
Having said that, the number of babies born between 34 and 36 weeks is on the rise.
34 to 36 weekers account for almost ¾ of all preterm births, so your baby may be in good company.
Reasons for more babies being born at this age include higher rates of maternal issues like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and more mamas-to-be being over 35.
Elective c-sections and labor inductions due to fetal concerns like growth restrictions or placental abruption can also be the reason for choosing to give birth at this point.
Are babies’ lungs developed at 36 weeks?
In most cases, the lungs are fully developed at 36 weeks, and the brain function regulating breathing has matured.
However, they would usually have a bit more time to practice in utero before being out in the big wide world, so respiratory distress can still be an issue.
Do babies born at 36 weeks develop slower?
A recent study shows that babies born between 35 and 36 weeks are 38% more likely to fail a developmental domain.
A “domain” refers to specific areas of development, namely cognitive, physical, language, and socio-economic.
For late preterm infants, developmental delays tend to look like difficulty with short-term memory, poor school performance, and behavioral issues.
Most of the risks for a baby born at 36 weeks revolve around communication and language delays, but knowing what to expect gives them a greater chance of having the support necessary to thrive.
Although a baby born at 36 weeks may face fewer challenges than babies born younger, they still will have some growing to do.
But your love, care, and encouragement will support them while they strengthen their muscles to feed, breathe, and move just like a full-term baby.