Most expectant women know as well as I do that pregnancy is typically 40 weeks long. During those weeks, many complicated developments happen to that teeny tiny baby. The heart, the lungs, the brain, all of these mega-important parts are being attended to by the little prince or princess.
What happens when baby gets antsy or mom's own body gets antsy (unapproved by mom), and decides that D-day is going to arrive early? Will the baby be fine, just smaller and more cute? What about labor and delivery? Is mom at risk of premature birth?
So many questions and so many variables that you're not sure where to start.
First things first, is mom at risk for premature birth? We have some common indicators that might help moms-to-be decide if they should be losing sleep over this. Not that our bodies or our babies follow the rules in textbooks or statistics. More times than not they do, though.
What about the baby? How will he or she handle labor, delivery, and arriving early? And mom's body, what about it? She'll need some details on what to expect and what she should look forward to as a new mother of a preemie.
Here are 15 facts about premature birth no one is telling mom about.
15 Having Baby #2 Too Soon Might Lead To Premature Birth
What is the magic number when it comes to waiting to have another child? Mothers should wait at least 18 months after giving birth before having another child in case their next baby arrives dangerously early, experts say.
Research has found that women who give birth again within 18 months of having a baby, especially within a year, are much more likely to have a very premature child – and are also running a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or childhood behavioral problems.
The risk of premature delivery among those with an inappropriate birth interval is so great that women are advised by health professionals how long they should leave it before having another baby. So, listen to your doctor when he or she said to wait.
14 Neurological Disabilities Are More Prevalent With Premature Birth
There have been some extreme advances in high-risk pregnancy care. These advances have resulted in improved survival of infants born preterm. Many studies have show how common it is for preterm survivors to suffer from neurodevelopment impairments.
In fact, half of all neurological disabilities in children are related to premature birth. These numbers are staggering. The central nervous system is often the most common to have some type of disorder.
The more subtle issues parents deal with are language disorders, learning disabilities, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some of the more serious problems are cerebral palsy (CP) and mental retardation.
13 Fertility Treatments May Influence Premature Birth
Some couples are not able to conceive on their own. These couples often enlist the help of healthcare providers. In turn, they are usually given the option of a few different kinds of fertility treatment (according to their needs).
Fertility drugs, insemination, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are all forms of fertility treatments. There is a link between preterm labor and both IVF and ICSI. This suggests that you are more likely to experience premature labor if you've undergone one of these two fertility treatment procedures.
It's pretty unfair if you ask me. Here are men and women who so desperately want to be parents and nature can't even throw them a bone. Instead she tends to run them through the ringer. Come on, Mother Nature!
12 There Are Different Types Of Preemies
Just being born early doesn't exactly peg it a premature birth. Well, it does, but there are different names for different ages of preemie. It can get complicated, so here's the general break down:
- Late preterm baby, born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Preemie, born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
- Micro-preemie, born at less than 25 weeks of pregnancy
As you can imagine, the older a baby is the less risky it is to be outside of the safety of the womb. There is a saying which indicates that if you want to know the value of a month, ask a mother of a premature baby.
Still in the US today, one in every eight babies is born prematurely. November is Premature Awareness month, so we've got ten months to gear up our support. No matter what we call them or how early they have arrived, premature babies are usually tender little beings, often fighting for their lives.
11 Baby's Gender Plays A Big Role In Premature Birth
At 25%, premature birth is the number one cause of neonatal mortality in the US. This is a very alarming number, and not one that new parents want to read. Knowing the facts and educating yourself is part of running this parenting gamut, though.
Another alarming fact is how much gender does affect the survivors of premature birth. Studies show that girls are way better off than boys. Although boys are most likely to be born prematurely, girls are still a step ahead of them developmentally-speaking. This could mean the difference between severe complications or not.
One possible reason for boys being premature is that mothers have a higher risk of certain pregnancy complications - high blood pressure and placenta abnormalities - when carrying boys. It's kind of a huge double whammy for baby boys.
10 Teen Moms Are More Likely To Give Birth Prematurely
There is a reason our parents taught us to use protection and birth control or even abstinence when we were teenagers. The complications of being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a child at that age are innumerable. For starters, your baby is at risk of being born prematurely.
Research has proven that pregnant women aged 14-17 years are at higher risk of preterm birth and of having a child with low birth weight, especially if they are having their second child.
Of course, it's possible that the risk of having a poor pregnancy could be blamed on biological immaturity. Teenagers' bodies just aren't ready to be having babies yet. I guess this is their way of letting us know.
9 Some Preemies May Have To Wear Doll's Clothes
We all know that baby clothes are some of the cutest things in the whole world, right? And they get cuter as the sizes get tinier. Once you've actually had to dress your premature baby in those tiny clothes or even doll clothes, you may start to rethink that cute and tiny are not one in the same.
For moms experiencing a premature birth, the fat rolls and dimples are typically nonexistent on her baby. It's common for skin to be wrinkly, thin, and even a reddish-purplish hue. While still completely adorable, all she wants is for that baby to be big, fat, and healthy with pink baby skin and a toothless grin.
Our ideas change as life changes. These tiny little babies have a way of causing us to rethink everything we've ever known before.
8 Premature Babies May Not Have The Suck Reflex
A baby’s suck reflex does not begin until about the 32nd week of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. Premature babies may have a weak or immature sucking ability because of this. Bottle and breastfeeding may prove to be a challenge.
Sometimes it's not even possible to bottle or breastfeed a premature baby in the typical sense. Although a new mom can pump breastmilk for her baby, it may need to be administered through a tube or other feeding device.
There are also milk drives for these special babies. Milk drives are basically donations focused on breastmilk. Many lactating mothers pump and then donate their milk to these milk drives. The milk is used for premature babies and babies in general.
7 Moms Over 35 Are At Risk Of Having Premature Babies
Alanis Morissette made it look good while having her second child at age 42, but so many people claim it can be harder than you think. After 35 the risks for...well, just about everything increase significantly. Premature births are included in this long list of over-35-risks.
Is it truly that at 35 years of age, a huge nosedive occurs? Yes and no. There are so many studies that use 35 as the cutoff for this risk or that risk. This research is getting to be a little outdated, though.
While your age does make a difference, it is not the sole factor in determining whether you are at risk of a premature birth. More than anything, the condition of your physical and mental health are more significant variables than age alone.
As we age, our health naturally declines. The stats of premature births related to mothers over 35 are simply following the trend of naturally aging.
6 The Medical Costs Are Greater For Preemies
The average first-year medical costs, including both inpatient and outpatient care, are about 10 times greater for preterm infants than for full-term infants. This fact is due to the complications a premature baby has the potential to experience after birth and for the first year of his or her life.
Remember that this is NOT guaranteed, but it is a statistic of which to be aware. Babies aren't cheap in the first place, and the more little they are the more expensive they get.
Have you ever been shopping for a certain shirt and finally found it for a decent price only to notice that they sell the same shirt in baby sizes for about 3x the cost? Yeah, that's the healthcare system for you as well. The little ones are expensive!
5 There May Not Be A Reason For The Early Labor
We humans typically want a reason for everything. The reason he chose to eat a hamburger was because he ate pizza yesterday. The reason she slipped on the ice was because her shoes were too small. The reason I'm having premature labor is because - well, there may be no reason at all.
Sometimes it just happens this way. Period.
It's a big pill to swallow not being able to understand why your body is a month or two or more ahead of itself. Why doesn't your baby know to stay in there and grow a little more?
We don't always know why. Not even healthcare providers always know why. We wish that little babies understood what the world outside of the womb could do to them. We'd like to think their early arrival is just an honorary meet and greet, because they couldn't hold back there excitement of meeting you any longer.
4 There Is Always Hope
Have you ever heard of the likes of Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, or Picasso? You'll be encouraged to know that they were all preemies. The facts about premature birth complications can be daunting, but here's a list of high achievers who rose against all odds.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: born in 1769 was one of the greatest military leaders in history. His small statue is noted to be the result of his premature birth.
- Victor Hugo: a great French novelist, most famous for creating Les Miserable, was a preemie born in 1802
- Mark Twain: An accomplished American writer born in 1835, born 2 months premature.
- Sidney Poitier: Award winning actor, film director, and activist.
- Winston Churchill: A British politician and statesman, born 2 months premature in 1874.
- Albert Einstein: Born premature in Germany in March of 1879.
- Anna Pavlova: Born 2 months premature in 1881 and grew up to become one of the world’s most famous ballerinas.
- Stevie Wonder: Famous American singer born in 1950 and was one of many premature infants born in the 40’s and 50’s affected by a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) that caused him to lose his eyesight as a baby.
- Isaac Newton: Scientist and inventor who described the laws of gravity. Born in 1643, small enough to fit into a quart mug, according to his mother.
- Charles Darwin: An English naturalist and scientist- the originator of the biological theory of evolution.
- Pablo Picasso: Artist and Spanish painter- famous sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist.
3 Mother's Milk Is Best For Preemies
The body of a mother who delivers early will automatically produce milk that’s specially designed to nourish her premature baby, with extra minerals, fat, and protein. The leukocytes and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from infection; for this reason, neonatologists refer to it as “liquid gold."
Many times you'll see yellowish liquid in feeding tubes being fed to premature babies. This is usually the "liquid gold" we're talking about.
It's a common misconception that premature babies can't breastfeed or even take a bottle. Although, their suck reflect is not as strong as a 40-weeker (this topic previously covered), many of these babies bottle or breastfeed successfully.
2 The Dangers Of Having Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Infant respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is caused an immaturity in the structure of the lungs. RDS is the most common single cause of death in the first month of life in first world countries.
It's more common in premature infants born six weeks or more before their due dates. It usually develops within the first 24 hours after birth.
Symptoms include rapid and shallow breathing. Doctors usually watch out for a specific breathing pattern. Treatments includes medications to keep the lungs open, breathing support, and oxygen therapy.
It's a scary thing for parents to see their child go through. It can often be treated successfully, though.
1 Preemies Won't Leave The Incubator Until They Reach 4 Pounds
We've mentioned that a premature baby has unique skin, but we didn't mention that in comparison to body mass there is a lot of it. This can sometimes cause a few bumps in the road for your little baby.
Because of their large skin surface area relative to their weight, premature babies usually must weigh at least 4 pounds in order to efficiently maintain their body temperature. Most premature babies are safely tucked away in incubators to help their body maintain its temperature.
Once they hit around four pounds, their little bodies start doing the work on there own. Doctors won't release a baby from his or her incubator until the baby has steadily kept a normal temperature.
Sources: BabyCenter, What To Expect, Mayo Clinic, March Of Dimes