Gestational age is the age in weeks at which the baby is born, Baby can be pre-term and post-term.

A pre-term or premature baby is one born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Fully term baby in one born after the 37th week of pregnancy. It is 40+ 2 weeks of pregnancy. Post-term or postmature is one born after the 42nd week of pregnancy.

In full-term, the baby is usually relatively normal. There is neither birth anoxia nor asphyxia. Nutrition and oxygenation are adequate.

In postmaturity, it is known that after the 42nd week of pregnancy, the placenta naturally begins to degenerate. The baby then suffers from placental insufficiency. There is birth anoxia leading to fetal distress and there is also a passage of meconium. This may lead to intrauterine death.

    The postmature baby when born has the following features:

  • A bright face and shiny eyes.
  • Dry and peeling skin covered with meconium.
  • There is usually meconium aspiration.

A pre-term or premature baby has the advantages of having lived in a normal environment in the uterus. The cause of prematurity is not known but some conditions have been implicated and include :

  • Maternal illness.
  • Emotional upset.
  • Multiple pregnancies.
  • Previous termination of pregnancy.

The problems of a premature baby are many and varied. The most common ones are:

1. Hypothermia

2. Hypoglycemia.

3. Jaundice.

4. Respiratory problems such as the apnoeic attack.

5. Recurrent infections

The management of a premature baby is the attention of a neonatologist. Nursing in an incubator is essential. A strict aseptic condition is required.


Three varieties of birth weight abound. These are small for the date (SFD); Appropriate for date and large for a date. Small for date baby is one whose growth is so retarded that the birth weight falls below the 10th percentile for gestational age.

Causes of gestational age and birth weight:

  • Genetic and congenital abnormalities
  • Multiple pregnancies.
  • Intrauterine infections.
  • Maternal habits such as smoking and drinking
  • Poor socio-economic factor.
  • Racial.

Problems of small for date baby :

1. Birth Asphyxia.

2. Hypoglycemia.

3. Hypothermia.

4. Maybe physically and mentally retarded.

Large for date baby is one whose weight is greater than the 90th percentile for the gestation age.

  • The birth weight is 4kg or more kilograms.
  • Delivery is difficult as the head circumference is more than normal and cephalo-pelvic disproportion is usual.
  • Birth injury too as usual.
  • Neonatal asphyxia is common.



Birth Weights for Gestational Age and Sex


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