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

A Baby Born at 33 Weeks of Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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.

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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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.