Baby Born at 33 Weeks: Causes, Risks and How to Care

Baby Born at 33 Weeks: Causes, Risks and How to Care?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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A baby born between 33 and 34 weeks of pregnancy or before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy is termed as a preterm baby. A preterm or premature baby, especially a 33 week preemie is not completely developed and will require complex medical care. He may also face complications both in the NICU and at home. Therefore, extra precautions and measures need to be undertaken to ensure that the baby stays safe and healthy. In this article, we will discuss the causes of childbirth at 33 weeks of pregnancy and how to take care of a baby who is born preterm.

How Does A Baby Born At 33 Weeks Look Like?

So you’re curious about what a 33 week preemie looks like? Well, let me tell you, they’re like tiny little superheroes! At 33 weeks, these babies are considered preterm, meaning they were born a little early. They might weigh around 4 pounds, have delicate skin, and be covered in a soft, downy hair called lanugo. But don’t let their small size fool you – these babies are tough cookies and can surprise you with their strength and resilience. Just imagine a tiny, adorable human who could fit in the palm of your hand. It’s pretty amazing if you ask me!

What Causes Childbirth at 33 Weeks?

A baby may be born early or at 33 weeks of pregnancy because of the following reasons.

  • Irritation in the uterus or the cervix’s inability to keep the baby secure.
  • Placenta-related issues that necessitate separating the baby earlier than usual.
  • Consumption of alcohol or drug addiction that affects pregnancy.
  • An infection or illness that may cause the body to go into labour early.
  • A woman who is pregnant with more than one baby may have a premature delivery.
  • One of the most common causes of childbirth at 33 weeks is preterm labor. This occurs when the uterus starts contracting and causing cervical changes before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This can be caused by various factors such as infections, stress, smoking, or a history of preterm birth.
  • Certain health conditions in the mother, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, can increase the risk of preterm labour and delivery.
  • Preeclampsia is a condition that can develop during pregnancy and cause high blood pressure and damage to organs like the liver and kidneys. In severe cases, it can lead to premature delivery to protect the health of the mother and baby.
  • In rare cases, trauma to the mother’s abdomen or uterus, such as from a car accident or fall, can lead to premature delivery. This is because the trauma can trigger contractions and cause cervical changes that lead to labour.

Common Complications That a Baby Born at 33 Weeks of Pregnancy Face

A baby born at 33 weeks of pregnancy or before 37th week of pregnancy is prone to several health problems. Some of the risks include:

1. Inability to Maintain Body Heat

A baby born in the 33rd week of the pregnancy should weigh somewhere between 1.5 and 3 kilograms. However, if the baby weighs less than 2-2.5 kilograms, the doctors will have to take extensive measures to keep him alive until he gains the desired weight. The weight is a marker of body fat present in the baby, which is essential in maintaining a safe body temperature outside the womb. Radiating warmers, incubators, electric beds can all be used to ensure that the baby stays warm throughout. Once the baby gains enough weight, these can be removed.

2. Problems in Gaining Weight

For the baby to gain weight as fast as possible, the best thing that a mother can do is feed him. However, babies born before the 34th week of pregnancy are unable to suckle the breast as effectively as required and this rules out the possibility of mouth feedings. Furthermore, the inability to suckle may affect the digestive process and result in indigestion, which could lead to further complications. In such cases, a feeding tube is the only way to ensure that the baby gets all the nutrients he requires. This tube goes right into the baby’s stomach or can even be intravenous, too.

3. Developmental Issues

A large part of a baby’s development happens inside the womb which prepares it to perceive the world after delivery. Up until the 35th week of pregnancy, the baby’s brain is only at 66% of its final weight. Due to premature delivery at 33rd week, the brain doesn’t have a chance to develop fully, which could lead to behavioural problems later in life.

4. Infections

Just like the brain, the immune system also takes time to develop and function well. The baby receives a boost of antibodies in the final stages of the pregnancy which enables him to fight the initial wave of bacteria and infections that might come his way. A premature delivery followed by incessant procedures to keep the baby alive can greatly increase the risk of infections and further complications.

5. Pneumonia

A preemie baby can have respiratory problems which might lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs, thus reducing the amount of space available for the exchange of air. If the baby develops pneumonia, he may get inadequate oxygen and face difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, if the condition is left untreated, it may result in fatal complications.

A young mother taking care of her baby

Other Complications For A Baby Born At 33 Week

Let’s talk about other complications for a baby born at 33 weeks. While these tiny superheroes are tough and resilient, they may still face some challenges in the early days of life. Here are some possible complications:

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome – Since the lungs are one of the last organs to fully develop in a fetus, premature babies may have trouble breathing and require extra support to help their lungs mature.
  • Feeding Difficulties – Babies born at 33 weeks may have trouble coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing, which can make feeding a challenge. They may need to be fed through a tube until they are strong enough to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
  • Jaundice – Jaundice is a common condition in newborns where the skin and eyes turn yellow due to high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Premature babies are at higher risk for jaundice and may require phototherapy to help break down the bilirubin.
  • Temperature Instability – Premature babies may have difficulty regulating their body temperature and may need to be kept in an incubator or warmer to maintain a safe temperature.
  • Infections – Premature babies have a higher risk of developing infections, both while in the hospital and after they go home.
  • Brain Bleeds – Babies born at 33 weeks are at risk of bleeding in the brain due to the delicate blood vessels in their developing brains.
  • Apnea – Apnea is a condition where a baby stops breathing for a short period of time. Premature babies are at higher risk for apnea and may need to be monitored closely.
  • Anemia – Premature babies may have a lower number of red blood cells, which can lead to anemia and require treatment.
  • Developmental Delays – Premature babies may be at higher risk for developmental delays and may require early intervention services to help them catch up.

How to Take Care of Preemies Born at 33 Weeks?

As premature babies require a little extra care in comparison to healthy babies, there are certain protocols that are recommended for their care.

1) In the Hospital

  • If the baby is born prematurely, the doctor will keep him under observation until he is sure that the baby will be able to live without any support. Listen to your doctor and follow his instructions.
  • A premature baby is not ready to suckle and breastfeed, but that does not mean a mother should not be prepared to breastfeed her baby. If you have a preemie baby, you should be prepared to feed him the moment he can. This means you should regularly pump the breast milk and store the milk. Also, be mentally prepared for breastfeeding. Imagine your baby latching on to your breast and feeding him. This will keep you motivated!
  • Spending time with your little one is as much necessary for you as it is for him. Your baby can very well listen to you and sense the surroundings. Keep talking to him or sing to him so that he knows you are around and feels safe. If he can be held, try to develop a skin to skin contact, this will improve his weight and help you bond with your baby. Doctors recommend kangaroo mother care to improve the temperature control and immunity of a preemie baby.

2) At Home

  • Restrict the number of individuals that interact with the baby until the baby has had time to recover.
  • If anybody is sick or ill in your family, make sure the baby stays away from them as because of his immature immune system, he might catch the infection and fall sick.
  • While handling your baby, ensure your hands are clean and disinfected. Make sure other family members take the same precautions, too.
  • Keep a box of use-and-throw tissues for the baby as well as anybody else to maintain a hygienic atmosphere. Sterilize any toys that you give to your baby.
  • Do not smoke in the vicinity of the child at all.

Can Babies Born At 33 Weeks Breath On Their Own And Be Healthy?

If you’re wondering if babies born at 33 weeks can breathe on their own and be healthy, the answer is usually yes! While premature babies may need some extra support and care, many of them go on to thrive and live healthy lives. Some babies may require respiratory support or feeding assistance in the early days, but with proper medical care, they can often overcome these challenges. It’s important to remember that every baby is unique and may have different needs, so if you have concerns about your baby’s health or development, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider. With love, care, and a little bit of luck, your tiny miracle will grow into a strong and healthy child.


1. What Is the Survival Rate of Babies Born at 33 Weeks?

The survival rate of babies born in the 33rd week of pregnancy stands at a solid 98 per cent. So if you have a little one born at 33 weeks of gestation, stay hopeful. If proper care is taken, he will be able to stay put and grow well within no time.

2. How Long Does a Baby Born at 33 Weeks Have to Stay in the NICU For?

A baby born at 33 weeks will have to stay in the NICU unless and until the doctors are sure that he is fine. His stay in the NICU will basically be determined by his health condition (i.e., how well he is developing). For most babies, the stay in the NICU is usually short. Breathing issues usually resolve soon but it does take some time for them to start feeding. The reflexes of sucking and swallowing need quite a bit of strength. The baby may have to stay in the NICU unless and until he gets strong enough to suck and swallow. The baby will be discharged from the NICU when he is completely healthy to survive on his own.

3. Is It Possible To Give Birth Naturally At 33 Weeks?

When it comes to babies born at 33 weeks, there is a chance that you may still be able to give birth naturally, but it ultimately depends on the individual circumstances. If your 33 week old baby is in a good position for delivery and there are no major complications, you may be able to have a vaginal birth. However, in some cases, a c-section may be necessary to ensure the safety of both you and your baby. The best thing you can do is work closely with your healthcare provider to come up with a birth plan that takes into account your unique situation and preferences. Remember, the most important thing is the health and well being of your baby, so trust in the expertise of your healthcare team to guide you through this exciting but potentially challenging time.

Even if the baby is born prematurely at 33 weeks, the chances of him leading a good life are pretty high and strong. Keeping your calm while the baby recovers and taking the right precautions going forward can ensure that you and your baby lead the journey of growing up together without complications.

Also Read: Newborn Baby Care – Important Tips for Parents

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