In pregnancy, doctors and midwives use the term "viability” to describe a wide range of situations. First viability may mean that the baby can potentially survive if born prematurely. It can also mean that the fetus is still alive and healthy inside the uterus. So a viable pregnancy could mean the possibility of a baby surviving even if it is born prematurely or the overall state of an unborn baby that has a high chance of surviving when born
This term is usually deployed to describe a healthy pregnancy that is doing well. A viable pregnancy means that the fetus is alive and has a heartbeat. Or before there is a fetal heartbeat (before 6 weeks 3 days) it could mean that the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin is rising normally. It general means that the fetus is not dead but alive.
A viable fetus or baby refers to the time in pregnancy when the baby or fetus if born now and prematurely, has a high chance of survival. For the majority of hospitals in the United States, the viability age is about 24 weeks and 0 days of the pregnancy. Though, viability has been considered lower, around the range of 23 weeks and 0 days, more recently. However, being born around 23-24 weeks does not signify that most babies will survive or that if they do they will have absolutely no problems. The risk of complication decreases each day after 24 weeks and the chances of survival increases.
24 weeks is the cutoff point when many medical doctors will use intensive medical intervention to save the life of a baby born prematurely. This intervention can include doing a cesarean section. Somewhere between 23 and 24 weeks lies a "gray zone" where some doctors would not intervene. And below 23 weeks, most doctors are highly unlikely to do a cesarean section for fetal reasons and most neonatologists will not attempt to resuscitate a baby born before 23 weeks, and some others won't attempt to resuscitate a baby born around 23-24 weeks.
Generally, a baby born around week 24 would require a lot of intensive medical intervention, which could potentially include mechanical ventilation and other invasive treatments followed by a long stay in a neonatal intensive care unit.
However, odds of a baby’s survival increase as the pregnancy progress. An extra week in the womb can also make a lot of difference. Naturally, premature babies delivered closer to week 37 will be in a much better condition than those born before week 28.
A nonviable pregnancy is normally a pregnancy where there is virtually no heart beat or where the Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin is not rising as it normally should. Early in pregnancy, this could be a sign of miscarriage or a missed spontaneous abortion. It could also be a pregnancy with a dead fetus at a later stage of pregnancy. A nonviable pregnancy is generally a pregnancy without or with very little chance of a live infant being born or without the fetus or baby having a strong chance to survive if born alive.
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