Premature Babies

image001In America around 12.5% babies are born premature, which amounts to almost 50,000 premature babies per year. These babies are called preemies because they are born ahead of their scheduled birth date and have not spent the full term in their mother’s womb which is around 37 to 42 weeks. What causes some babies to be born prematurely? What are the possible health risks in their future lives? How to take care of your premature baby?

Why Are Some Babies Born Prematurely?

Although it is hard to determine exactly why a baby is born prematurely but following are some reasons which may lead to a premature birth.

  • If you are expecting twins.
  • If you have given a premature birth earlier.
  • If you lack the finances required to support your pregnancy needs.
  • If you have had to do physical labor during your pregnancy and did not get the rest required for completing a full term.
  • If you are underweight or overweight.
  • If you smoke or have been taking drugs.
  • If you have abnormal vaginal discharge during your pregnancy.
  • Premature birth can also be caused because of pregnancy issues as well, which include cervical weakness, bacterial infection in the vagina, complications in the uterus, water breaking early and excessive blood loss during pregnancy.
  • A medical complication might also be responsible for an early birth which happens in about 20% of premature births. In such circumstances, the doctors might have to perform a caesarian section or induce an earlier labor. The medical complications that might force the doctors into inducing early labor include an abnormality identified in the baby or insufficient growth of the baby inside the womb.
  • In addition to this, a doctor might decide to go for a premature birth in cases when the mother has gone through a trauma, is suffering from pre-eclampsia or has a medical condition which might endanger the baby’s health if he completes the full term.

Premature Babies Born in Different Pregnancy Weeks

  • Early. Babies who are born early in between 34 to 36 weeks might appear smaller than normal, but would not require any specialized care. However, their feeding patterns, blood pressure and blood sugar levels will be closely monitored.
  • Moderately early. Babies who are born in between 32 and 33 weeks are considered more at risk of catching infections and might require immediate treatment for which they will be taken to a Local Neonatal Unit (LNU) right after delivery.
  • Very early. Babies born in between weeks 29 to 31 are born very early and are susceptible to infections and hypothermia and might have low blood sugar levels. Thus, such babies are kept either in an LNU or a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
  • Extremely early. Babies who are born prior to the 27th week of pregnancy are too weak and have to be taken immediately to a NICU. Such babies have a low blood pressure and might have trouble breathing as well.
  • Babies who do not spend at least 23 weeks in the womb have almost no chance of surviving. However, doctors try to keep them alive for as long as possible. In all cases of premature birth, the parents have to remain strong and require all the support they can get as they might have to make some very tough decisions regarding their baby’s health.

How Are Premature Babies Taken Care of at NICU

Premature babies are immediately taken to the NICU after birth where they can be provided the specialized care they need. The NICU is equipped with all the treatment methods that a premature baby might require for his survival. The supportive care that preemies can get in a NICU includes incubation, constant monitoring of his vital signs, replenishment of fluids intravenously and milk through an NG tube and blood transfusions. The baby will not remain in the NICU forever and can be taken home as soon as he becomes healthy.

Watch the following video to learn more about care for premature babies in NICU:

What Should You Do After Taking Your Baby Home?

When you take a premature baby home, do remember to brush up your skills on how to take care of your baby. Learn everything you must know about premature baby care and make notes on how to treat the baby in case he requires treatments at home. Keep a close eye on your baby’s symptoms and learn about the problems in which contacting a doctor becomes absolutely necessary.

1. Feed Your Baby Properly

Feeding is a very important issue for a premature baby. So make sure to discuss the feedings with your child’s pediatrician before taking him home. Know exactly which type of milk is best for your baby and what dose of it has to be given to him at what intervals.

2. Avoid Infections

Premature babies are at a greater risk of catching infections and have to be protected much more fiercely than full-term babies. Thus, it is better to keep them away from people and not allow anyone to touch him without washing his hands. In addition to this, ask the doctor for a prescription of palivizumab (Synagis), a preventive medication, to keep him safe from infections.

3. Go to Checkups

Go for regular checkups with your child’s caregiver or any other specialist because there are many possible health risks for premature babies. Premature babies require frequent visits to the doctor so that their developmental and medical needs are constantly monitored.

4. Be Clear about Which Vaccinations to Get

When it comes to vaccinations, premature babies require extra care. They might have to be given booster vaccines for diseases like whooping cough. Thus, it is better to remain in constant touch with your child’s caregiver and ask him about his schedule of immunizations.

5. Pay Close Attention to Developmental Milestones

Premature babies might suffer from developmental disorders which can be assessed and treated if they are caught at an early age. Thus, when you bring your premature baby home, keep a close eye on his developmental milestones and note down the delays that occur during his development so that they can be evaluated as quickly as possible.