Corrected age: how old is your premature baby?
Understanding the unique development of a preterm infant is essential for ensuring their overall health and well-being. Many parents of preterm babies become familiar with a term called " corrected age." When a baby is born preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), their developmental milestones and experiences will differ from that of a full-term baby.
Corrected age is subtracting the number of weeks or months the baby was born earlier from the actual chronological age—meaning the age they would have been if they had been born as per their EDD.
Since preterm infants may be neurologically immature, they may be less "rewarding social partners." This means that their capacity to interact with and respond to caregivers won't match that of a baby born at full-term.That's why, to track their development until two years of age accurately, health professionals use the baby's adjusted age or corrected age.
Regarding growth and developmental milestones, corrected age also comes into play. For premature babies, the corrected age should be used to track development until the baby is two years old. This is so that doctors and healthcare providers have a better idea of how the preterm child’s development is compared to the development of full-term babies.
It's also essential to remember that corrected age isn't used for measuring developmental milestones. It also takes into account growth tracker points like weight and height.
When a preterm infant is ready to start school, their corrected age can play an important role. Studies have shown that preterm infants have questionable school-age outcomes, including cognitive ability and educational performance. This is because the brain's development is highly determined by the amount of time it has spent in the womb.
Therefore, rather than adjusting to their chronological age when starting school, which is difficult for many, they adjust to their corrected age instead. Their cognitive and academic goals may be behind or ahead due to the developmental delays they experienced while in the womb.
Studies have shown that expressive (the ability to communicate using words) and receptive language (the ability to understand what others say) in preterm infants are delayed an average of 3 to 5 months, depending on gestational age at birth.
Therefore, paying attention to corrected age is vital in ensuring that medical professionals and parents are on the same page when considering a baby's progress.
Premature babies should get vaccinations according to the same schedule as full-term infants or their chronological age. This includes the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine, which should be administered within the first 24 hours of birth.
It's important to remember that this age is only a guide, but every preterm baby develops differently. What's most important for your preterm baby's growth and development is to understand the baby's needs necessary to reach their milestones safely and ensure you provide the right balance of play, learning and interactions.