1. Being a mom
  2. Raising a baby
  3. Growth & development

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

Babies Born at 32 Weeks: Flo Answers All Your Questions

Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered premature. Why do premature births happen? Are there risks associated with having a baby born at 32 weeks? We’ve got the answers to all of your questions about babies born at 32 weeks.

Preterm birth: possible causes 

Preterm birth affects about 5–18 percent of all babies born worldwide. Lifestyle, health, and family history can all play a role in babies’ gestation period

Some of the possible risk factors for preterm birth include: 

  • Lifestyle habits like smoking cigarettes or taking illicit drugs
  • Experiencing high-stress life events 
  • Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more)
  • Getting pregnant within six months or less of a previous pregnancy
  • Having had multiple miscarriages, abortions, or premature births
  • Having issues related to your uterus, cervix, or placenta
  • Being overweight or underweight before you got pregnant

Physical injury or trauma and some infections can also cause your baby to be born prematurely. But sometimes, there is no known cause for a baby being born prematurely. 

What happens if your baby is born at 32 weeks? Let’s take a look at the specific appearance and possible complications for a premature baby born at 32 weeks.

Babies born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy are considered “moderately preterm.” Their physical features will appear sharper and less rounded because they haven’t fully developed their fat stores. That’s also why they’ll have a low body temperature immediately at birth and why they might be covered in lanugo — a fine hair that covers most of their body. 

A baby born prematurely at 32 weeks will be small and have a disproportionately larger head than a baby born at full term

A baby born at 32 weeks will be approximately 16.5 inches (42 centimeters) long, with a head circumference between 11.4 and 11.6 inches (29–29.5 centimeters).

The average weight of babies born at 32 weeks is around 3 pounds and 12–15 ounces (1.7–1.8 kilograms). The average birth weight for full-term babies born after 40 weeks of gestation is around 7 pounds and 7–15 ounces (3.4–3.6 kilograms).

A baby born at 32 weeks will be approximately 16.5 inches (42 centimeters) long, with a head circumference between 11.4 and 11.6 inches (29–29.5 centimeters). 

Some possible short-term complications can affect different areas of your baby’s body, including their lungs, heart, and brain. 

Lung problems

A baby born at 32 weeks can have breathing difficulties because their lungs and respiratory system haven’t fully developed. They may have apnea or develop a lung disorder called bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Heart problems

Heart problems affecting a baby born at 32 weeks can include patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which is a persistent opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery. PDA may repair itself on its own or may require surgery.

Brain issues

Some babies born at 32 weeks have brain bleeding called intraventricular hemorrhage. In mild cases, the bleeding may have little to no impact. More significant brain bleeds, however, can cause permanent brain injury. 

Body temperature issues

Premature babies have lower body temperatures at birth and can lose heat rapidly. They are at risk of developing hypothermia, which can exacerbate breathing issues and lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). 

Other issues

A baby born at 32 weeks of gestation can also have: 

  • Gastrointestinal problems due to the underdeveloped lining in the bowel walls
  • Blood problems such as anemia or jaundice
  • An underdeveloped immune system, which can increase their risk of developing infections
  • Difficulties with feeding due to underdeveloped sucking and swallowing reflexes
  • Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome

It’s important to remember that not all babies who are born prematurely will have lasting health complications. However, the more premature a baby is, the higher their risk of developing complications. 

Premature babies have lower body temperatures at birth and can lose heat rapidly.

Some long-term health complications can include cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, developmental delays, behavioral and psychological problems, poor eyesight or hearing, increased risk of some dental issues, and asthma.

Survival rate among babies born at 32 weeks

Despite being born prematurely, babies born at 32 weeks have a survival rate of 95 percent.

The quality of medical care that your baby receives when they are born can significantly influence their ability to survive. 

Treatment of babies born at 32 weeks

Babies born at 32 weeks may require immediate and intensive medical care to survive. Your hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit will make sure your baby receives around-the-clock care and attention. 

Depending on the level of care that your baby needs, they may receive any of the following treatments: 

  • An incubator may be used to help maintain their core body temperature.
  • They may be hooked up to machines to monitor their heart rate, breathing, and body temperature.
  • A ventilator may be used to help them breathe.
  • They may be fed through a feeding tube or receive fluids through an intravenous line until they are strong enough to breast or bottle-feed on their own.
  • Bilirubin light exposure therapy may be used to treat jaundice.
  • They might receive blood transfusions to increase blood volume, if necessary.
  • They might receive medication to help with growth and development or ward off infections.
  • In the case of serious health complications, your baby may require one or more surgeries.

Your baby’s health care team is dedicated to making sure your baby survives and thrives. They’ll recommend that your baby stays in the hospital until they are healthy and strong enough to live without medical intervention. 

Your baby’s health care team is dedicated to making sure your baby survives and thrives.

Your doctor will want to see that your baby can breathe and feed on their own, maintains their body temperature, and is gaining weight steadily. Doctors and nurses will make sure that you have everything you need to care for your newborn at home before discharging them from the hospital. 

On a final note

Babies born at 32 weeks experience some immediate health challenges, but they can go on to live healthy and normal lives. A baby born at 32 weeks has a high survival rate and might not suffer from any long-term health complications. Speak with your doctor or medical team about your baby’s needs, and work with them to monitor your baby’s health and development over time. 

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preterm-birth

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/symptoms-causes/syc-20376730

http://www.inha.ie/definition-of-premature-birth/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376736

https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/features/premature-birth/index.html

Read this next