Being Prepared for a Premature Baby

May 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Newborn Care

Typically, a woman will be pregnant for nine months, which is the average time it takes for a fetus to develop but sometimes, babies come early. If the baby delivers one to two weeks ahead of schedule, it is no big deal but anything more means you have a premature baby.

Determining the exact date you will deliver can be difficult. For this reason, doctors will ask for the date of your last menstrual cycle and look at the development period of 260 to 270 days. However, every pregnancy is different so due dates are seldom hit, meaning the mother delivers a few days early or late.

Obviously, if a baby is born too early, there are usually complications or increased risk of health problems. For instance, if a baby is born three or more weeks early, development problems are common but not always serious.

Interestingly, one baby goes on recoded for being born at 21 weeks gestation and living. However, even a baby born between 25 and 26 weeks is relatively common but also with an increase for problems. The most common concerns have to do with the nervous system, brain development, and lung development, which is the last organ to finish growing. Because of this, some premature babies have health issues later in life in relation to the underdevelopment issues.

Sadly, one concerns that doctors face is varying degrees of mental impairment. However, while this is a serious issue, some health problems that premature babies face are not so horrible. As an example, Respiratory Distress Syndrome is a possibility but a treatable condition. The child may end up on medication for a short period or life, depending on the problem and severity of the problem.

Of course, the earlier the baby is born the more chance of problems. Even with this, each and birth are different so one baby that might be three weeks early could have health issues while another baby three weeks early would be perfectly fine. Therefore, you cannot base your premature experience against another.

Keep in mind that some things can be done while your premature baby is still young to help.

The best option is prevention. This means that seeing a doctor throughout the pregnancy, taking prenatal vitamins, and so on all increase the chance of a healthy baby. Today, medical intervention and prevention is much better than years before, which is great. Therefore, make sure you stay on a healthy diet, live a stress free life, and get appropriate sleep.

Premature babies also have a much better chance of survival in the hospital than ever before. Depending on the baby’s condition, he or she may need a breathing tube, the body’s temperature will be carefully monitored, and blood pressure and heart monitors are used. While your baby is in the hospital, he or she will be seen by a lot of doctors and nurses to ensure the baby’s health is both monitored and regulated. If you want to breastfeed, you probably can and in fact, many doctors suggest it for the sake of the baby.

You may also find that some premature babies have a type of neurologic disorder known as ROP or Retinopathy of Prematurity. In some cases, a condition known as Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is also a problem. Each of these health risks can occur with a premature baby and if your child were to be diagnoses with one, the doctor would be able to provide medical insight and guidance. Of course, premature babies may experience other less serious complications that are easy to manage.

Probably one of the more common things that might happen is infection. After all, a premature baby does not have a fully developed immune system so fighting off infection is difficult. Because of this, it is vital that you as the parent keep the newborn away from a lot of people and for those who are around, they need to wear surgical facemasks and always wash their hands. Your baby’s pediatrician may also recommend adding supplements to your baby’s milk, which will encourage immune system development.

Next, premature babies are more prone to episodes where they stop breathing, which is called Sleep Apnea. The key in this situation is to use a special monitoring system that will monitor the baby’s breathing, sound, and movement so if he or she were to stop breathing, an alarm would sound and immediate action could taken. Finally, babies that come too early may have Jaundice, which causes the whites of the eyes and the skin to turn yellow. This is the result of bilirubin buildup within the bloodstream and to correct the problem, the baby is placed under warming lights. Jaundice is not harmful as long as it is corrected so once you bring the baby home, if you begin to notice a change of skin color, call the doctor right away.

The thing to keep in mind when it comes to premature babies is that the more information you know the better the baby will develop. Make sure that you and the baby are eating properly, that both are getting adequate rest, monitor the baby closely, avoid stress, and lean on family and friends for physical and emotional support.

More than ever, a premature baby has a great chance of life, unlike many years ago. With new technologies and medicines, we now see very small babies not only living, but also thriving and growing into healthy children. Some of the greatest and most intelligent people ever to live were premature babies such as Albert Einstein so if you have a premature baby, follow the doctor’s advice and things will be fine.