Corrected age: what is it?
Corrected age, or adjusted age, is your premature baby’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months he was born early.
For example, a one-year-old who was born three months early would have a corrected age of nine months.
Why corrected age is important
Corrected age can be helpful if you’re trying to work out whether your premature baby’s development is tracking in a typical way. For example, if someone notices that your child is six months old but not sitting up yet, you could explain that she was born three months early. If you look at her corrected age, she’s really only three months old and she’s doing everything a three-month-old usually does.
Corrected age is especially relevant during your child’s early years, because it might explain things that look like lags in development in these years.
If you’re giving your child a first birthday party, you should celebrate his birthday one year from when he was born, regardless of corrected age!
How corrected age affects different areas of growth and development
All children have variations in growth and development, regardless of whether they were premature or full term.
Being premature can affect every aspect of growth and development differently. Some areas might not be affected at all, whereas others could be greatly affected. Using your baby’s corrected age for growth is particularly important.
Who to tell about your child’s corrected age
It’s a good idea to tell child care teachers, preschool teachers, health professionals and anyone who cares for or works with your child that she was born prematurely. They’ll also find it useful to know how many weeks early she was born.
If you’re worried about learning or developmental problems after your child starts school, it will be helpful for school teachers to know that your child was born early.
There isn’t a set age when you should stop correcting a child’s age for prematurity. But most health professionals recommend correcting at least until your child is two years old.
How corrected age affects your child’s play and interactions
You might notice that other babies of the same chronological age can do more than your premature baby. But if you think in terms of corrected age, you might find that what your child can do is just right for his age.
Like all children, your premature child will learn a lot from having plenty of different things to play with, do and see – for example, being read to, going out to the park and playing with other children.
All these different and stimulating experiences help your child’s brain to develop.
Corrected age and starting child care, preschool or school
Your child might start preschool and school based on her chronological age, not her corrected age.
But a few months in age can make a difference to what a child can do and what he’s expected to do, especially at preschool. Some parents of premature children decide to delay school for a year, if their child’s corrected age is just below school entry age. This can give your child extra time to catch up in growth and develop the social skills he needs for preschool and school.
If your child is assessed for any development delays, you can ask for the test results to be scored at both your child’s corrected and chronological ages.
When to have immunisations
Premature babies generally get the same immunisations at the same chronological age as full-term babies. Premature babies need the protection of immunisation because they’re more likely to get certain infections.
If your baby was very premature, she might get her first immunisations while she’s still in hospital. She might also need an extra dose of some vaccines when she’s older.
It’s best to speak to your child’s GP or paediatrician about your child’s immunisation needs.