In America about 12.5% of babies are born prematurely, which equates to nearly 50,000 babies a year. Premature babies are babies that were born before their expected date of birth and have not spent the time in the womb, which is about 37 to 42 weeks. So, what causes babies to be born prematurely? What are the possible health risks later in life? How can you take care for your premature baby?
Why some Babies Premature?
Although it is difficult to determine exactly why a baby is born prematurely, here are some reasons that can lead to premature birth:
- If you are expecting twins.
- If you gave premature birth earlier.
- If you do not have the necessary finances to meet your needs of pregnancy.
- If you had to do physical labor during pregnancy and do not get the rest needed to complete a full term.
- If you are underweight or overweight.
- If you smoke or have taken drugs.
- If you have abnormal vaginal discharge during your pregnancy.
- Complications of pregnancy; Premature birth can also be caused due to pregnancy problems and include weakness of the cervix, a bacterial infection in the vagina, complications of the uterus, water breaking early and excessive blood loss during pregnancy.
- A medical complication may also be responsible for early birth which occurs in about 20% of premature births. In such circumstances, doctors may need to perform a caesarean section or induce labor early. Medical complications that could force doctors in inducing early labor are anomaly identified in baby or lack of growth of the baby in the womb.
- On top of that, the doctor may decide to go for a premature birth in cases where the mother has suffered trauma, suffering from preeclampsia or has a medical condition that may endanger the child’s health and complicates the term.
Premature Babies Born in Different Weeks of Pregnancy
- Beginning: Babies who are born early at 36 weeks from 34 may seem smaller than normal, but do not require specialized care. However, their eating habits, blood pressure and sugar levels in the blood will be closely monitored.
- Early Moderately: Babies who are born in between 32 and 33 weeks are considered more at risk of catching infections and may require immediate treatment to which they will be taken to a local neonatal unit (LNU) just after childbirth.
- Early: Babies born between weeks 29-31 were born very early and are susceptible to infections and hypothermia and may have sugar levels in the blood. Thus, these babies are kept under a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or LNU.
- Extremely early: Babies born before the 27 th week of pregnancy are too low and should be taken immediately to a NICU. These babies have low blood pressure and may have difficulty breathing as well.
- Babies who do not pass at least 23 weeks gestation: have virtually no chance to survive. However, doctors are trying to keep them alive as long as possible. In any case of premature birth, parents must remain strong and demand all the support they can get because they might have to make some very difficult decisions regarding the health of their baby.
How Premature Babies are Cared for in the NICU
Premature babies are immediately taken to the NICU after birth where they can be provided specialized care they need. The NICU is equipped with all methods of treatment that a premature baby may need to survive. Supportive care that premature babies can get in a NICU includes:
- The constant monitoring of vital signs
- Filling of intravenous fluids and milk through a tube of blood and transfusions NG. The baby will not stay in the NICU forever and can always be brought home as soon as he/she becomes healthier.
Watch the video below to learn more about caring for premature babies in the NICU: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9LXFHj6etw
What should you do after taking Your Baby Home?
When taking a premature baby home, do not forget to hone your skills on how to care for your baby. Learn everything you need to know about premature baby care and take notes on how to treat the baby if it requires treatment at home. Keep an eye on your baby’s symptoms and learn more about the problems that may affect them. Constant contact with a doctor is absolutely necessary.
- Feed Your Baby Correctly
Food is a very important issue for a premature baby. So make sure you discuss feedings with your child’s pediatrician before taking him home. Know exactly what type of milk is the best for your baby and what dose of the latter should be given to him at what intervals.
- Prevent Infection
Premature babies are at greater risk of catching infections and should be protected more violently than babies born at term. So, it is best to keep them away from people and do not allow anyone to touch it without washing their hands. In addition to this, ask the doctor for a prescription of palivizumab (Synagis), a preventive medicine to keep safe from infections.
- Go to Reviews
Go for regular checkups with your child’s teacher or other specialist. Premature babies need frequent doctor visits so that their development and health needs are constantly monitored.
- Be Clear About Vaccinations
When it comes to vaccinations, premature babies need extra care. They might have to give booster vaccines for diseases like whooping cough. So it is better to stay in constant contact with the doctor of your child and ask him questions about his vaccination program.
- Pay Attention to Key Development Stages
Premature babies can suffer from developmental disorders that can be evaluated and treated if taken at an early age. So when you bring your premature baby at home, keep a close eye on its development stages and noting the delays that occur during development so that they can be evaluated as soon as possible.
What are the Possible Health Problems in Premature Babies?
|Breathing problems||Premature babies may not have a complete respiratory system, they can cause respiratory problems. They are at risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and may show signs of apnea as well.|
|Heart problems||Premature babies usually suffer from low blood pressure and must be provided with intravenous fluids and transfusions to maintain normal blood pressure. They might have a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and which can lead to heart failure if left untreated.|
|Brain problems||Premature babies are at risk of intraventricular hemorrhage that causes bleeding in the brain. This bleeding can cause an accumulation of fluid in the brain that cannot be treated by surgery.|
|Temperature control problems||Premature babies do not have enough fat reserves and are therefore unable to stay warm. They must be kept in an incubator for the first few days until they have the capacity to the temperature of their regular body.|
|Gastrointestinal problems||Premature babies usually have a gastrointestinal system underdeveloped and are likely to develop a serious condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) unless they are breastfeeding.|
|Blood problems||Premature babies are usually anemic and cannot produce the necessary amount of red blood cells. They run the risk of jaundice in infants as well, due to having an excess of bilirubin in the blood.|
|Cerebral palsy||Due to brain damage caused by an infection or lack of oxygen supply, a baby can develop a movement disorder known as cerebral palsy.|
|Impaired cognitive abilities||Premature babies usually have learning disabilities and may not reach developmental milestones as quickly as term babies.|
|Vision problems||Premature babies are at risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which can lead to blindness if not treated.|
|Hearing problems||Premature babies have a higher risk of developing hearing problems and may experience partial or total hearing loss. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), feeding problems, asthma and infections are some of the chronic health problems that premature babies may suffer.|
|Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), feeding problems, asthma and infections are some of the chronic health problems that premature babies may suffer.|
|Psychological and behavioral problems||Premature babies usually have some type of behavior and psychological problem that prevents them from interacting with other children and cause depression and anxiety.|