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How Rare Is It for a Baby Born at 21 Weeks to Survive?

Updated May 16, 2024
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World records can range from the fun to the freaky, but sometimes they can reach in and warm your heart. Earlier this month, Guinness World Records reported that a baby boy named Curtis Means was alive and kicking after being born at only 21 weeks and one day of gestation, setting a record for the most premature baby to survive. Tragically, babies born before 22 weeks of pregnancy have a very minimal chance of survival, and those born at 22 weeks have only a 10% chance (though this is gradually improving).

The Guinness World Records announcement came more than a year after Curtis was born on July 5, 2020, in Birmingham, Alabama. Curtis weighed only 14.8 ounces (419.5 g) at birth, and was the twin of a baby girl who sadly did not survive.

Remarkably, although the odds are greatly against a baby surviving at such a young gestational age, Curtis took the world record away from another baby boy, Richard Hutchinson, born at 21 weeks and 2 days (and weighing just 11.9 ounces) only a month earlier in Minnesota. Interestingly, before the two newcomers arrived in 2020, the record for the youngest surviving premature baby had remained unbroken for 34 years.

Early arrivals:

  • Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered premature; globally, around 1 in 10 newborns are premature.

  • Although there are some known risk factors, the medical community does not have a solid basis for understanding why most babies are born premature.

  • Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Isaac Newton were all born prematurely.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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