A Near-term infant is born roughly four or five weeks before his or her estimated due date.Near-term babies on average are healthier than preemies, however recent studies are showing that they may not be quite as healthy as full-term babies. Babies born three to six weeks early are at greater risk for potentially serious health problems than full-term newborns and often require longer or repeated hospital stays.
Wang and colleagues reported in a 2004 study on Clinical Outcomes of Near-Term Infants that near-term babies had significantly more medical problems and higher hospital costs than full-term babies. In addition Near-term babies were more likely to be evaluated for infections and have low blood sugar, unstable temperatures, breathing problems and jaundice.
They concluded that, "Near-term infants had significantly more medical problems and increased hospital costs compared with contemporaneous full-term infants. Near-term infants may represent an unrecognized at-risk neonatal population."
Initiative to Improve Care of Late Preterm (Near-Term) Infants
To get the word out about the potential special needs of late preterm or near-term infants, in 2005 the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) launched the Late Preterm Infant Initiative.
This multi-year endeavor was created to addresses the special needs of infants born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of gestation. It is important for parents to understand that these near-term infants may face different and more serious health problems than most full-term infants. As such, parents need to be alert for the special situations or needs that may arise in near-term infants.
Their goals included increasing both health care provider and consumer awareness of the risks associated with late preterm birth while ensuring educational resources are available for nurses and health care providers to provide appropriate assessment and care for these vulnerable newborns.
Dyer KA. 2007. Big Near-Term and Sick Newborns are the Majority of the NICU Admissions. NICU Parent Support Blog.
Keeling L. Near-term babies at the NICU suffer from deceptive weakness. June 11, 2007. Evansville Courier & Press.
Rubin R. 'Near-term' unease grows. USA Today. October 9, 2005.
Wang ML, Dorer DJ, Flemming MP. Catlin EA. 2004. Clinical Outcomes of Near-Term Infants. Pediatrics. 114(2):372-376.
AWHONN.org 2005. The AWHONN Late Preterm Infant Initiative.
AWHONN.org 2005. National Nurses Association Announces Initiative to Improve Care of Late Preterm (Near-Term) Infants and Educate Parents, Nurses about Their Needs. AWHONN.org Press Release.