Why is it important to correct the age in premature babies?

It is necessary to correct the age in premature babies so that the growth and development of the child can be adequately monitored. This only applies to the first years of life.

Last update: 05 July, 2022

Correct age in premature babies It is very important to do an adequate follow-up to the development of the small. Otherwise, mistakes may be made in assessing your progress.

When a baby is born prematurely it has a different evolution. It completes stages of its development in variable times with respect to the little ones that were born on time.

Until not long ago, little relevance was given to correcting the age of premature babies. This, on many occasions, led to mistaken expectations in the face of development advances. Today it is considered essential to do so.

premature babies

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Every year around 15 million babies are born prematurely in the world. Depending on when they come into the world, they are divided into three categories:

  • Moderate to late preterm: They are born between 32 to 37 weeks.
  • Very premature: They are born between 28 to 32 weeks.
  • extreme preemies: when they are born before week 28.

The more premature they are, the greater the risk that they will have difficulties in their psychomotor and cognitive development. Either way, babies born early have a different rate of development than those born full term. That is the essential reason to correct the age in premature babies.

Premature babies have more risk factors for certain pathologies, so extreme care is taken with them.

The usefulness of correcting the age in premature babies

Correcting the age of premature babies is necessary to assess their physical and neurological development. When a baby is born prematurely, two ages are attributed to it:

  • Gestational: corresponds to the exact time that the pregnancy has lasted and is counted in weeks. It is counted from the first day of the last period until the day of birth.
  • Chronological: corresponds to the time that elapses after birth. It is counted in days, weeks, months and years.

Now, when the exercise of correcting the age in premature babies is done, a third age appears, which is the adjusted or corrected age. This is what the little one would have if he had been born at term, that is, at 40 weeks.

Based on these data, it is possible to evaluate crucial aspects of development, such as weight, height, head circumference, and the acquisition of motor and psychosocial skills. Likewise, this parameter allows establishing when the child should receive complementary feeding.

Typically, a premature baby develops a little “slower” than a full-term baby.. Thanks to corrected age, it is possible to avoid the mistake between a diagnosis of developmental delay and normal development.

The effect of prematurity on development

Correcting the age of premature babies is essential to avoid erroneous comparisons. If the little one is born premature, you need to make up the time it took to be born full term.

The most conditioned aspects are the following:

  • premature babies take longer to reach a suitable weight and height for his chronological age.
  • It is more common for them to have difficulties on the breath, sucking, swallowing, gastric emptying, reflux, and muscle tone. If the age is not corrected, it is possible that such difficulties are confused with pathologies.
  • complementary feeding can only be given when they reach 6 months of corrected agenot chronological.

In the only aspect in which there is no need to correct the age in premature babies is in the application of vaccines. These are administered to all children equally, taking into account only chronological age.

The calculation to correct the age

Correcting the age in premature babies is very simple. It is only necessary to apply a simple calculation. The number of weeks of prematurity must be subtracted from the chronological age and the result is the corrected age.

At the same time, to establish the number of weeks of prematurity, it is only necessary to subtract the gestational age from 40. Let’s see this with an example.

Suppose a baby was born at 32 weeks gestation. The first thing, then, is to subtract 32 from 40, which gives us 8:

40 weeks (full gestation) – 32 weeks (preterm gestational age) = 8 (weeks preterm)

What follows is to take the chronological age, expressed in weeks, and subtract the number of weeks of prematurity. For example, if we do the calculation on a 4-month-old child:

16 (chronological age in weeks) – 8 (weeks premature) = 8 weeks or 2 months (corrected age)

How long is corrected age used?

While it is very important to correct the age of premature babies to properly monitor development and establish feeding milestones, such an age is not taken into account forever. It is only valid at the beginning of life.

Specific, the corrected age is only used up to 2 years. There, the developmental milestones of a premature baby are equated with those of a full-term baby.

If, once that age is reached, disparities are still observed in relation to a baby born at term, they are no longer considered to be the result of prematurity. In those cases, it is necessary for the doctor to evaluate what is happening.

Pediatric controls up to 2 years old consider the corrected age. Then, the milestones can be matched.

not everyone is the same

There are no set rules around the development of a baby born prematurely.. Some move faster, while others move more slowly. In any case, correcting the age of premature babies is a parameter that helps a lot.

Some of the problems a premature baby may have at birth will improve over time. Breathing, gastric, or other difficulties usually disappear as development completes.

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