There is no doubt that pregnancy can be a wonderful time, but it can also be a very anxious time. Along with the joy of knowing a baby will soon arrive also comes the fear that when the baby does arrive, there may be something wrong with him or her. That is why it is not uncommon for parents to count all the fingers and toes of their newborn. Everyone wants to make sure everything is as it should be when their baby is born. Nevertheless, there can be certain unwanted developments that occur when a child is born. One of the most common is that a baby arrives too early.
When a baby arrives earlier than the expected due date, it is known as being premature, and babies that arrive prematurely are often referred to as preemies. Having a preemie can be a scary thing, especially if the baby is early by a significant amount of time. Then there are many health conditions and issues associated with being a preemie. However, having a premature baby does not have to be all that scary. The problem is that a great many people do not really know all that much when it comes to premature babies. If people knew more about the facts surrounding the matter, the less intimidating they might find it. Here are 15 facts about preemies that people might not know about, but they really should to ease any concerns they may have on the matter.
15 They're Survivors
Here is the great news when it comes to preemies. Nearly all of the preemies that are born now, survive. Parents need to know that having a baby prematurely is not some sort of death sentence for the baby. However, depending on the circumstances, some preemies may have a bit of a tougher time pushing through than others.
We all know that, generally, the later a baby is born, the healthier it will likely be. However, even babies that are born very early have nearly a 100 percent chance of surviving. The great thing is that medical technology in today's world allows for nearly all preemies to survive being born too early. For example, modern advances in technology can help babies that are born very early to breathe and provide them with the nourishment they need to survive. Some premature babies are not able to eat and breathe on their own and were it not for medical advances, these babies would not be able to survive on their own in previous decades.
14 Potential Difficulties In Later Learning
Of course, just because a premature baby survives does not mean that it will be perfectly fine. The unfortunate truth is that a great many preemies have some sort of neurological disease or disorder. Since a baby is born earlier than it should be, that premature birth leads to several preemies to have neurological issues. The earlier a baby is born the more likely it is for a premature baby to have a neurological disease.
For example, if a child is premature it is very likely that when that child reaches school age he or she will have some kind of learning disability. Preemies may also have cerebral palsy, which is a movement disorder that could be caused by neurological issues. It is not uncommon for premature babies to have some sort of disorder involving their movement or motor skills due to a neurological disease. Preemies may even have behavioral or psychological issues as well.
13 Long And Healthy Life
It is important for parents of premature babies to know that even though their child may have health issues there is no reason their child cannot have a healthy life in the long term. Things might not always be the easiest for preemies, but the majority of preemies do go on to live perfectly healthy and long normal lives. Actually, a fair share of preemies go on to live extraordinary lives. A good example of this is Albert Einstein.
Einstein was a famous scientist and is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant men in human history. He was also born prematurely. Another famous example of someone that was prematurely born is the legendary former British prime minister, Winston Churchill who did nothing less than oversee England during World War II. These two examples should make it very clear that being premature is not a life sentence of debilitating setbacks and issues.
12 They May Need Surgery
It is good to know that some conditions are more common to preemies than others. One such condition is patent ductus arteriosus or PDA. This is a problem with the heart and blood flow. Before a baby is born, that baby's blood did not need to go to its lungs to be oxygenated unlike after it is born. This is made possible because there is a hole called the ductus arteriosus that allows the blood to skip the lungs.
When a baby is born that hole is supposed to close so blood can get to the lungs. The problem is sometimes it does not close and remains open or patent, with preemies. Failure for the ductus arteriosus to close is very likely to occur in babies that are born prematurely. Surgery and various others treatments are used to deal with PDA in preemies.
11 Not Everything Is Fully Developed
Another condition that parents need to be aware of when it comes to preemies is intraventricular hemorrhage or IVH. In essence, IVH is bleeding into fluid-filled areas inside the brain. This condition is most common in children born more than 10 weeks early. IVH occurs in preemies because the blood vessels in their brains are not fully developed.
Some symptoms of this condition are breathing pauses, changes in blood pressure and heart rate, seizures and other abnormal movements. Doctors will attempt to treat the symptoms. The only problem is there is no actual way to stop the bleeding associated with IVH. If it becomes necessary, surgery may be used to drain fluid from the brain. It a child has severe bleeding it can ultimately lead to developmental delays and problems controlling movements. Ultimately, however, how well a child does with IVH depends on just how premature they are.
10 Risk Of Blindness
The brain and heart are not the only organs that can be affected by being born prematurely. The eyes can also be affected. There is a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity or ROP. ROP is abnormal blood vessels that grow in the retina.
The retina, of course, is the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that actually causes people to be able to see. ROP can actually cause the retina to detach from the eye, and that in turn can cause blindness. However, some cases of ROP can be pretty mild and take care of themselves. Other more dire cases of ROP need surgery to correct the problem and prevent blindness from occurring. The surgery performed to deal with ROP will likely be laser surgery. If a baby is born early, normal growth of blood vessels in the retina stops and abnormal blood vessels in the retina may form instead.
9 Delayed Reflex For Sucking
As sad as it may be, babies that are born prematurely may have difficulty with about the only thing babies naturally know how to do. That thing is to suck, like on a breast or a bottle. The reflex of sucking does not start to develop until around 32 weeks of a pregnancy and it does not finish developing until about 36 weeks. So if a baby is born too early, that baby may very likely lack the reflex to suck to obtain nutrition.
Of course, this is a problem for babies because they need to be able to suck to eat, by either bottle or breast. Babies that cannot properly suck will more than likely have to be fed by some sort of tube in the hospital. One thing moms and dads can do to deal with a baby that does not have the proper suck reflex is skin to skin contact. Also, just because a baby might not be able to breastfeed right away does not mean a mom shouldn't pump breast milk to give to her baby as the hospital can use it to feed her little one in NICU.
8 They Might Not Be Able To Catch Their Breath
Another vital organ that can be affected by being born too early is the lungs. It is called infant respiratory distress disease or RDS. It is a condition that essentially makes it hard for preemies to breathe. It's caused when a child is born too early and its lungs are not fully developed.
This disease is mainly caused by a lack of surfactant in the lungs. This is a substance that helps the lungs fill with air and keeps the air sacs from deflating. Some of the symptoms of this condition are a brief stop in breathing, rapid breathing or shallow breathing. There are several treatments for this condition, including giving babies extra surfactant and giving them oxygen. This condition usually gets worse before it gets better, and sometimes can even lead to death. There may also be long-term complications for babies with RDS such as high pressure in the lungs.
7 Higher Risk For Chronic Lung Infections
Another lung issue that preemies typically have is chronic lung infections. Essentially, chronic lung infections are damaged tissue in the lungs, which causes breathing and health problems. This is a fairly common issue with preemies and can, sadly, be a lifelong condition. However, the good news about it is that many preemies that have this issue do usually survive it. Chronic lung infections occur most often in children born before 26 weeks.
Likewise, babies that are born weighing less than 2 pounds have a higher risk for this condition. Chronic lung infections occur because the baby is born early before the lungs are fully formed. One of the symptoms of this is preemies having fluid in their lungs. Treatment for this condition typically involves putting the premature baby on a ventilator that provides extra oxygen. Chronic lung infections can be diagnosed with chest x-rays and blood tests.
6 They Can't Regulate Their Temperature
The thing that people must keep in mind is that babies are not as adaptable to their surroundings as a full grown adult is. This is especially true for babies that are born prematurely. Perhaps the best example of this is that preemies will very likely not be able to regulate their body temperature at all. What that means essentially is that babies born early are not able to keep themselves warm.
A baby's temperature should be around 98.6° F. All caregivers of preemies should take the needed steps to ensure preemies maintain the proper temperature. Many babies that are born prematurely will have to spend some time in an incubator, and to help make sure preemies incubators stay at the proper temperature is to add humidity. Also, placing a baby in a radiant warm bed or babytherm can be used to warm a premature baby to the desired temperature.
5 They Might Struggle To Do #2
When a baby is born earlier than they should be, many of their organs will not be fully formed. Among other things, it might mean that a baby born prematurely, the bowels may not be fully formed. What that means, to put it quite bluntly, is that a baby will have trouble pooping. That, of course, means that preemies will need surgery to provide an outlet for feces.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for premature babies to develop a condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. This is when the tissue of the inner lining of the small or large intestine becomes damaged and begins to die. That can actually occur in all babies, but it is most common with preemies. Symptoms of this condition include a swollen or bloated abdomen, bloody stool, and diarrhea. This is actually a very serious disease that can become life threatening. Antibiotics are often used to treat this condition.
4 Nothing Like Mother's Milk
Despite everything that may be wrong with a baby that is born prematurely that baby will likely still be pretty hungry. There is nothing better for a premature baby to eat than good old fashion breast milk from mom. A mother's breast milk has all the right nutrients and nourishment that a premature baby needs to eventually grow and become a healthy baby. Also, just because a mother may give birth prematurely, it does not affect the mother's ability to produce milk for her child.
However, a mother may find it to be a slow start when it comes to producing milk and may only be able to produce a few drops at a time if they are using a breast pump. Nevertheless, those drops should be saved since they the best thing for a premature baby. Along with nutrients, breast milk also provides protection against infections, which is very important for preemies. Mother's should also be aware that their baby might not be able to drink their breast milk right away after being born.
3 They're Unable To Make Red Blood Cells
Yet another issue that premature babies might face involves their blood. Preemies tend to suffer from anemia. Anemia is a lack of red blood cells in the body and as we know, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Many newborn babies have a fairly mild case of anemia. However, babies born prematurely can have a more serious case of anemia.
The problem is that the process that helps a baby make red blood cells usually occurs in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Since preemies are born early they do not get the full benefit of that process and thus are at a higher risk for anemia. Babies with anemia are diagnosed by a blood test. Some symptoms of anemia are a pale color, rapid heart and breathing rate, and poor weight gain. If a premature baby's anemia is severe enough it might need to be treated either with medication or a blood transfusion.
2 They Face A Prolonged Hospital Stay
With the various conditions that a premature baby might face, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a hospital stay will most likely occur. The unfortunate truth is that a premature baby may actually have to stay in the hospital for a significant length of time. Likewise, a premature baby may have to go and stay at the hospital several times before being healthy enough to stay out of the hospital. A parent's premature baby being in the hospital for a long time may be a scary thing, but they should keep in mind that a hospital stay is what is best for the baby and what will help him or her to eventually be healthy.
There are several factors that go into when a preemie might be able to leave the hospital. A good example of this is that preemies need to be able to breathe on their own without oxygen to leave the hospital. Also, a baby must be able to be fed through the mouth to leave the hospital. There are also various medical tests that a baby must pass before it can go home. No matter how long or often a preemie may need to be in the hospital, parents should keep in mind it will most likely be temporary and most preemies grow up to have normal and healthy lives.
1 They Might Be Slightly Yellow
One of the most striking things that can effect a preemie is something call jaundice. Jaundice is a liver condition that causes a baby's eyes and skin to turn yellow. Jaundice is hardly limited to preemies. It is actually one of the most common conditions that a baby, any baby, can get and it also occurs with diseases that adults get.
In large part, jaundice may look worse than it really is. However, in some cases, jaundice can be severe and preemies have a higher risk of suffering from long-term effects of jaundice. It is caused by a substance known as bilirubin that floods the body of a baby. Most babies are able to metabolize bilirubin pretty easy, but if a baby cannot, it can lead to serious consequences. Jaundice is typically treated by exposing the baby to special lights called phototherapy lights or bili lights. In most babies, jaundice is temporary and will only last a few weeks.
Sources: BabyCenter.com, Telegraph.co.uk, Heart.org, JustMommies.com, MedlinePlus.gov, Gosh.nhs.uk, VeryWell.com