Premature Babies - Basic Questions and Answers

Premature Babies - Basic Questions and Answers

Soon to be mothers are always concerned about the new life growing inside their body. They always want that when their baby steps into this world, he or she must be healthy and free from any maladies. 

But unfortunately, sometimes children come without completing the full term in their mommy’s belly. These infants are often called as preemies or premature babies.

Highlights

Premature babies are babies that are born before completing the full term in the womb

These babies often come with complications which could be short or long-term

• Though there are several unknown reasons of premature birth, pregnant women can adopt various measures to reduce the risk

What are premature babies?

Technically, a normal healthy pregnancy lasts anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks. This is the safe range and the baby born in this gestational period is considered a full-term birth. 

These neonates not only hold the best chances of survival but also the greatest health opportunities.

Preemies or premature babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. However, this does not mean premature babies comes inherently with serious health issues. 

As a general rule of the thumb, the early a baby born, the more difficulties he or she will face in later part of their life. Lets learn more about premature babies through following faqs.

What is the normal weight of a baby at birth?

Baby born with a weight of over 2.5 kgs is considered normal. Baby boys are slightly heavier than baby girls.

Why do some women have premature babies?

There are many risk factors for premature birth. Some of them are briefly pointed out below.

However, despite all the efforts and best intentions of the mother-to-be, there are some reasons for preterm labor that are still unknown to the medical world and cannot be avoided.

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What potential health problems can occur in preterm babies?

The earlier the babies are born, the more complications they come with. The complications can be divided into less severe or short-term and life-threatening or long-term:

Less severe/Short-term complications

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Low body weight
  • Activity less than normal
  • Problem feeding
  • Abnormal pale or yellow skin
  • Incapability of maintaining constant body temperature
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Patent ductus arteriosus, a unclosed hole between the two major blood vessel leading from the heart

Life-threatening/Long-term complications

  • Brain hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain
  • Cerebral palsy or disorder of the movement
  • Pulmonary hemorrhage or bleeding in the lungs
  • Impaired cognitive skills
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar
  • Pneumonia or infection and inflammation of the lungs
  • Anemia or lack of red blood cells
  • Hearing loss

How often are premature babies born?

Despite advanced medical care and cutting-edge infertility treatments, every year millions of premature babies are born around the world. Here are some quick facts.

  1. An estimated over 15 million preemies are born across the world every year and the number is increasing
  2. In 2015, preterm birth complications have resulted in about 1 million deaths of children under the age of 5
  3. Currently, India comes in the list of top 10 nations which are collectively contributing to 60 percent of the world’s total premature births
  4. As per National Neonatal Forum of India and the Indian Foundation of Premature babies, around 25 percent of all newborn deaths in the world occur in India
  5. Another cause of concern is that 13 African countries are better than India in terms of infant mortality rates (IMR)

What sort of treatment can we expect at the hospital?

Preemies have to be placed under intensive care. There is a special area in the hospital known as NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The special medical equipment there can take very good care of premature babies.

  • In most cases, doctors will try to prevent or delay a premature delivery by giving certain medications to the mother. If doctors are unable to stop premature labor or if a baby needs to be delivered prematurely, the doctor will go for a high-risk birth.
  • In the initial days after birth, doctors focus on monitoring the vital organs of the premature baby
  • They are kept in incubator that helps babies maintain their normal body temperature
  • Their heart rate, breathing, blood and oxygen levels are also monitored
  • Babies unable to eat via mouth or having difficulty sucking or swallowing will be given vital nutrients through injections or through a tube inserted via the nose or mouth
  • If the lungs of the baby aren’t fully developed or depending on how well his/her lungs are responding, the oxygen might be delivered via ventilator machine

When can premature babies go home?

There are several factors that are considered before the hospital makes a decision to release a preterm infant.

  • A baby must be able to breathe well on her own
  • Maintain her body temperature
  • Breastfeeding or bottle feeding properly

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Can we prevent premature birth?

Although the exact reason of premature birth is still unknown, the risks can be reduced right to some extent. Here are some of the methods that are generally suggested:

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet rich in protein, whole grains, and fruits
  • Pregnant women need more calcium. Daily intake of at least 1000 mg of calcium can reduce the risk
  • Doctor’s prescribed progesterone supplement for the women with history of preterm birth
  • Low dose aspirin (60-80 mg) daily have shown good results in certain women
  • Quit bad habits such as drinking, smoking, drugs and avoid overuse of certain drugs

Some preemies can have life-long health issues. However, with the advancement of technology, many of the problems can be controlled. 

But still, pregnant women should do their level best and regularly follow doctor’s advice for a blessed healthy baby in their life.

Sources

1. Premature infant(2016, September 12). MedlinePlus read more
2. What are the risk factors for preterm labor and birth?(2017, January 31). nichd read more
3. Preterm Labor and Birth: Condition Information(2017, January 31). nichd read more
4. Health Issues of Premature Babies(2016, February 26). Healthy Children read more