With current medical technology how pre-mature can baby be delivered and still live?

Just curious.

Searching on Google suggests the youngest it is possible for a premature infant to survive is about 21 weeks into gestation. It seems that earlier than this the lungs are not developed sufficiently to support respiration.

So a five month old baby is viable? :eek: And all the fingers and toes and etc are in place at that point? Amazing, I had no idea it would be possible for a child to survive (in any fashion) outside the womb with 4 months of gestation still to go.

Depends on what you mean by “viable”. Without intensive life-support a baby born 4 months premature has little or no chance of survival. But, yes, with the current state of medical technology, there are several cases of premature births surviving at 21 weeks. However, even with advanced technology, the mortality rate is high for such births. It also seems the survival rate jumps dramatically between 26 to 30 weeks suggesting that critical development occurs within the 21 to 26 week period.

A neighbor of mine was born about three and a half months early, and is quite alive today. However, she has a ton of health problems (kidney, liver, heart problems, and is blind in one eye) several of which are due to the fact that she was born so early - the internal organs don’t have time to fully develop properly.


Our own evilbeth had her child Dec 2nd 2001, and baby Emma Kate was due March 9th, 2002. A little over three months premature, and with her fair share (and then some!) of problems at the time, it seems Emma Kate is doing fine.

from here

At what gestational age are babies able to survive?
If an infant were born at 23 or 24 weeks with a good heart rate or strong drive, most doctors would resuscitate, depending on the parents’ wishes. We always consult with the parents to make sure they understand the potential complications. With infants born at 24 weeks, there’s almost no question that we would resuscitate.

How has the care of premature babies changed over time?
The “edge of viability” – that is the age at which infants are able to survive and thrive – has crept lower and lower. Ten years ago, only 40 percent of infants born at 26 weeks of gestation survived, and those who did, often faced a lifetime of physical and developmental challenges. Today, these babies have survival rates of 80 to 90 percent, and two-thirds to three-quarters of them will grow into perfectly normal children.

My niece was born at 28 weeks and is 25 years old. She spent the first six weeks of her life in an inubator and on a ventilator but survived. The only signs of her early struggle to life are thatshe was unusually tiny throughout her life (only 3lbs at birth - she only reached 5 ft in adult hood) and a leg that turns slightly inward. But every thing else is very healthy includng a more than healthy stubborness which is what her parents attribute to her survival.

My nephew was born at 23 weeks and 5 days (1lb, 9 oz), 4 months in the NICU (neo natal intensive care), now at 5+ years old the only remaining evidence is a roughly 10% loss of peripheral vision, he is the “one in a million kid” who flew through all of the testing and seems healthy.

can you cite on the 21 weekers, my sister is very interested, she is “in the business” and is not aware of any 21 weekers that made it (at her hospital there have been 2 22 weekers make it).


here’s one. You’ll be able to find others of you Google “21 weeks premature” or a similar search string.


This is data published in 1999, so the numbers are probably improving slowly. But the thing to remember is for every 22 weeker who survives, 9 or more will die. And perhaps one in twenty of the surviving 22 weekers will be living “normally”.