More than 15 million babies are born preterm each year, according to a recent WHO census. However, advances in medical science have meant that even premature babies have a good chance of surviving nowadays.
Babies may not be developed fully if they are born prematurely. They are likely to have health concerns and they may require to have a longer stay in the hospital. A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered a premature baby. Most of the premature births occur in the late preterm stage but depending on how early the baby is born complications of prematurity vary. The babies who are born before 28 weeks of pregnancy are said to be extremely preterm babies, then those babies who are born before 32 weeks of pregnancy come under the category of very preterm babies. Moderately preterm babies are the ones born between 32+0 and 33+6 weeks of pregnancy and late preterm babies are the ones born between 34+0 and 36+6 weeks of pregnancy. The earlier your baby is born, the higher is the risk of complications.
Certain health issues stemming from premature birth can potentially last for a lifetime. There are other concerns about developmental or intellectual disabilities of the bay, as they grow up. Other problems such as the functioning of the brain, physical development, taking care of themselves, communication and getting along with people are of utmost concern.
Premature babies are more likely to have health concerns if they are born earlier. Some of these problems may not even show up for a long time, even until their adulthood thus prevention of premature birth and early detection of health concerns can allow babies to live a longer and healthier life.
EFFECTS OF PRETERM BIRTH: BRAIN AND LUNGS
It is true that preterm birth can potentially cause developmental and intellectual disabilities in the long term. Such a disability causes problems with the functioning of the brain. As a result, the person has problems with learning, physical development, communicating and getting along with others and taking personal care. Some long-term disabilities that preterm birth may cause are first, neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy which affects the spinal cord, the brain and all the nerves in the body. Secondly, it is behavioural issues such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and anxiety. Babies may have trouble breathing or some lung issues if they are born prematurely. Some of the common concerns include Asthma, which is a health condition affecting the airways and causing breathing troubles. Then comes, BPD or Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which is a chronic lung disease causing abnormal growth or inflammation of the lungs. The lungs generally get better over time, but premature babies may have symptoms similar to that of asthma throughout their lives.
PRETERM BABIES NUTRITION AND CARE
The care is for your baby’s survival, therefore mothers breast milk is the best nutrition for all babies, especially preemies. Breast milk contains proteins that help fight infection. Most preemies can’t feed straight from the breast or bottle at first. Mothers pump their breast milk and it’s given to babies through a tube that goes through the nose or mouth.
Many preterm babies organs are fully developed, but there are still lots of changes happening in their brains which can give them small risks of development problems and breathing difficulties compared to full-term babies. These babies might need to stay in hospital so that they can put on weight and learn to feed by coordinating their sucking, breathing and swallowing. The babies who are extremely premature are at higher risk and need extra care so they are kept at neonatal intensive care unit during their stay.
Preemies will also need to go through frequent doctor visits for well-child checkups, vaccinations that all babies need to stay healthy, and more important routine hearing and eyesight examinations. As your baby grows, doctors will check your baby’s growth and development including speech and language, learning, motor skills, muscle tone, strength, and reflexes.
The article courtesy goes to Dr SUSANTA KUMAR BADATYA, Consultant Neonatology and Pediatrics, Apollo Cradle, New Delhi.