A full term baby is most commonly delivered between weeks 38 and 42 of pregnancy, but premature babies arrive into the world much earlier than that. Statistics show, from doctor Samir Alibsi, that between eight and ten percent of pregnancies in the United States will be a preterm delivery.
The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) is where the premature infant can be taken care of and given everything he or she needs to survive. Ninety percent of preemies that are just under two pounds survive, and those premature infants that are a little over one pound have about a 40 to 50 percent chance of survival.
Reasons for Premature Babies
There are several reasons that a soon-to-be mother can go into preterm labor, but the mother-to-be is rarely in control of the situation. A few reasons could be:
- There is a hormonal imbalance with the mother.
- The uterus is structured abnormally.
- There is an infection or chronic illness.
- poor lifestyle choices during the pregnancy such as smoking, not eating right, indulging in drugs and alcohol or extreme stress. Making good choices in these areas is the best way to avoid going into preterm labor.
Babies may arrive early if the mother is under the age of 19 or over the age of 35. Sometimes it can be because the mother-to-be is carrying mulitiples, and sometimes the cause is simply unknown.
There can be several issues with babies that are born prematurely. This is usually because the preemie hasn’t had time to fully develop their organs, and they simply cannot function by themselves.
Health Problems and Difficulties of Delivering a Preemie
Premature babies are prone to having health problems and difficulties in functioning when they are born too soon.
- Jaundice causes the preemie to develop a skin discoloration that appears yellow. This is common in full term infants, too, but more likely in premature infants.
- Apnea is when a premature infant stops breathing and they may turn purple or blue. This is typically caused from the preemie’s brain not completely developing, so the inhaling and exhaling is harder for the infant’s brain to control.
- Respiratory distress syndrome is one of the most common health problems that occurs in preemies simply because the infant’s lungs have not fully developed. Sometimes doctors can give the mother-to-be a steroid shot that will help with the preemie’s lung development prior to the preterm labor.
- Eye damage is quite common. A preemie can have extremely vulnerable and sensitive eyes after birth. This is called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). When an infant is born premature, they are tested for this condition in the NICU.
Almost immediately following the preemie’s delivery, the infant is taken into the NICU where tests are run to make sure that everything is normal or close to normal. Sometimes a preemie can be in NICU for up to six weeks, but there are also circumstances where the preemie does not even need to be in NICU for more than a certain amount of hours.
Special Care for Preemies
There are a few qualifications that the preemie must pass before the mother can take them home:
- The infant must be able to eat by breast or bottle without feeding tubes.
- The premature baby should be able to gain weight steadily.
- The preemie must be able to maintain their body temperature in a crib for up to two full days. This also depends on how the preemie was at birth.
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and it is extremely important for the soon-to-be mother to take precautions during the entire pregnancy. If an infant is delivered preterm, the doctors and nurses are always prepared with the necessary supplies so that the mother can take the preemie home under good health.