Pregnancy is a wonderful journey that lasts 40 weeks and that takes all the mothers-to-be to experiences they’ve never felt before.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for women to give birth before their due date. This is the so-called premature or preterm birth. In medicine, preterm birth is classified as the birth of a baby which age is under 37 gestational weeks. It is unknown why some women give birth earlier; there’s one thing for sure: mothers don’t have a control over it.
There are risks for the babies born earlier regarding their physical, emotional and cognitive behavior, and some have more special needs with feeding and breathing compared to full-term infants. That’s why many babies spend quite a lot of time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which is different for each baby. However, there are many cases when preemies born even before 28 weeks and less than 800 grams (around two pounds) are reported to be healthy and happy children.
For parents, premature birth is a stressful event nobody wants and many need emotional support till they are able to hold their little one in their hands. There are some really terrifying things you should go through when it comes to preterm birth. Let’s see some tips to cope with your feelings after a preterm birth.
15 Dealing With Negative Emotions
Preterm birth is something that is never planned. It can be very stressful, terrifying and devastating for the mother and the family as a whole. The emotions that can overwhelm you can be stronger and more intense than all the hormones you’ve had to deal with during your sweet pregnancy.
Fear, sadness, apathy, hysteria, and guilt: the list of emotions and feelings is too long. But don’t be scared to let yourself go through it all.
Cry when you need to and take some time off for yourself. Reflect on your emotional state and let others know what you’re experiencing.
Be yourself. Remember that we all react to various events differently and there’s no shame in the fact that sometimes we feel weak, down or desperate. Accept the facts and let your emotions go out of your body. You’ll see that time helps and soon you’ll embrace happiness and hope again.
14 How To Get Over The Guilt
Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault that your baby was born earlier.
It’s unknown what causes preterm birth, but for sure it’s something you can’t control. So just accept this part of your life as a challenge that will make the connection between you and your baby stronger.
Interestingly, statistics show that preterm birth is common in multiple pregnancies, infections, or some chronic conditions. There might be also a genetic influence. Addictions and alcohol abuse can also be a factor.
Worldwide, poorer families are at bigger risk to have a preemie. Malawi is the country with the highest rates of premature birth per 100 births (18.1 per 100).
Actually, there’s an increase in preterm birth in the last 20 years. Maternal age, infertility treatments, and cesarean births can also be a way to understand the problem.
However, this is all data. The point is that it’s not YOU or anything you can control. Just be strong.
13 Where To Find Information
Stay informed. Remember that prematurity happens when a pregnancy lasts less than 37 weeks. In comparison, the full-term pregnancy lasts between 37 and 42 weeks after your last menstruation. There are different practices around the world but in general, when a woman reaches 22 weeks a baby is considered viable.
Always ask for more information. Know that medicine has advanced a lot and there are babies only 23 weeks old that have survived and have happy lives. For example, more than 90% of preemies born a bit over 800 grams survive. Also, babies who weigh around 500 grams have more than 60% chances to survive.
There’s also a difference between the adjusted and the actual age of your baby. For example, if you’ve given birth to your beauty 4 weeks before your due date, you might notice that after finally taking your little one back home, he or she will be acting like a newborn instead of 1 month old.
12 Need Of Professional Advice
Remember that your baby is more than figures and statistics and that each case is individual. There’s always hope and positivity.
Ask for professional help and don’t worry to call the hospital any time asking about your baby and about any progress they might be making.
There are some crucial things about your baby: weight, ability to breathe and ability to digest food (milk). There might be some gastrointestinal and metabolism problems. Some babies need a lot of time on oxygen and some of the complications are bronchopulmonary dysplasia, apnea, and respiratory distress syndrome. Other complications include heart problems, immune system problems, and blood problems.
With time they’ll be other important checks regarding the retina and the brain activity of the baby.
Also, there might be some long-term complications but you should know that your baby is really strong and capable of coping with everything. That’s why all the little one needs is faith and love.
11 Find A Support Group/Network
Cry but always stay positive and strong. Let’s face it, the first time you see your little baby you will be shocked and scared of the little pink creature in front of you. You might be surprised with all the tubes and machinery that keep your little soul alive.
Have in mind that around 15 million babies are born early each year, so you’re not alone. Be strong and don’t avoid going to the hospital. Your baby also needs support and your visits give him or her strength. The physical contact and your voice are enough to give some life to all the sadness and fears.
Research shows that touch and tactile support are crucial for babies and their social development. Touch is also important for growth and learning. It provides relaxation and improves the emotional bond between parents and baby. Parents should be aware of the baby’s response to touch and interaction.
In addition, be cooperative with all the health professionals and trust their opinion.
10 The Importance Of Carrying On Family Life
Maybe one of the most difficult things to do after a premature birth is to keep looking after your family. Let your relatives know how you feel, inform them about all the risks that might occur, and try to understand their fears. Sometimes your family can be a source of strength and hope, so don’t avoid them.
Make sure that they know that all the spectrum of emotions you are experiencing is normal and don’t be ashamed to cry, shout or just isolate yourself from time to time.
If you have other children, make sure they know you love them and that you’re not going to abandon them. Talk about their little brother or sister that will be with them soon.
However, the most important thing to do is to look after yourself in order to be able to give more emotional support to your baby. If you need, just take some time off.
9 Why Staying Together Is Important
This is also one of the terrifying things we need to go through after a preterm birth. Sometimes the person we’ve loved the most can be our target and we can bombard them with hate, blame, negative emotions and accusations. While being emotional is totally normal, try to stay with your partner. Understand each other and have in mind that mothers and fathers feel things differently. However, know that parents love their children equally and that there’s nobody to blame.
Involve your partner in your emotional state, discuss how you two will deal with possible complications and motivate him to visit the baby with you. As stated above, the baby needs emotional support as well to be able to go through this stressful period and become a healthy individual.
If possible, stay intimate, go out, talk, make plans, love your life and cherish each other. For your preemie is important to have parents that respect and support each other.
8 Finding Social Support
Again, don’t avoid social interaction. You’re not alone. You and your family might need some effective social support.
Actually, there are other families and babies that are going through the same terrifying times. Across 184 countries worldwide, the rate of preterm birth is rising, and it ranges between 5% and 18%.
There are three types of categories:
- Extremely preterm (before 28 weeks)
- Very preterm (between 28 and 32 weeks)
- Moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks)
Although preterm birth is not wanted and unplanned, in some specific cases, such as placenta previa, birth can be induced earlier, which can lead to preterm birth.
The point is that there are many cases like yours and that’s why by connecting with other families, you might feel more at ease.
There are also different charities that tackle the problem and provide social and community support.
Find the best thing that can give you some strength.
7 Seek Professional Help
Sometimes when we feel too weak and lonely and we can’t find any support around us, we might consider some professional help.
Actually, it can be easier to talk to a psychologist or a therapist because usually they are not involved in the situation you are in and that’s why they can give you some professional advice on how to deal with all the emotions and changes in your life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a good option as it can give you more direction and routine with your everyday life.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help because this shows only that you are strong enough to talk openly about your problems. Involve your partner and consider a family therapy because your premature birth is a challenge for the family as a whole. Try to be supportive even though you need support: fathers have a different experience and often are too shy to talk about them.
6 Follow A Routine
If you have a preemie, it will be difficult to continue your normal life. All the stress and hospital visits might make it really hard for you and your family to keep up with your routine. However, force yourself to lead a normal life.
Take some time off to reflect on your emotions. Stay informed but don’t forget that each case in different. Don’t avoid social interaction and communication. Follow a routine: have some time only for yourself (exercising, drawing, reading, watching TV, etc.); if you find it helpful – dedicate some time to work; make a schedule for when you can visit your little one. A good routine can give more meaning to your everyday life.
Most of all look after your own health after birth and try to stay away from depressive thoughts and negative predictions. You’re a mother, true, but you are an individual as well and it’s not egotistical to want to be stable and healthy.
5 Keep A Journal
Track your routine.
Keep a journal and take photos of your baby. You’ll see that in the future you’ll look at them with tears in your eyes: tears of happiness. Show these pictures to your family, so they can be involved as well. Make videos and enjoy watching your little warrior at home.
Keep track of your baby’s weight, their need of thermal care and their response to kangaroo mother care, the levels of oxygen needed, and their sleep patterns. If you notice any unusual, speak to a professional.
Write about your emotions, all the interactions with your baby, his or her improvement, and talk about that. Involve your partner and cry and laugh together.
Make a scrapbook and be positive that soon there’ll be more things in it, especially after you take your little one back home.
All these mementos will be precious in the future and will help you organize your day.
4 Celebrate All The Milestones
Maybe it’s weird to hear this word when it comes to preterm birth, but celebrate. Celebrate each day you wake up and see your baby, each touch, each smile, each improvement… Simply celebrate life!
Even the smallest improvement in your baby’s condition is enough to make you, your partner and family celebrate. Lower levels of oxygen, the first time you give water to your little one, the first time when you put some oil on your baby or when you change a diaper: that all can be a great thing to celebrate.
Every visit is a reason to celebrate. Even a single smile is enough.
Don’t forget to be happy and make things that can improve your emotional state. Why don’t you even go out, go to the movies or just have a coffee at your favorite place? The best you can do is to be stable and happy to give love to your baby.
3 Be Patient
Maybe this is one of the hardest things to do while you are waiting for your baby to get better. All the unknowns and maybes can dry you crazy and lead you to despair. But be patient and hopeful that soon your baby will be with you.
There’s no definite time because each baby is different. Some can stay a couple of weeks, other can stay for months. There are cases when even some babies are on oxygen for months. But be patient and trust your baby: she or he is brave and strong.
Also, be patient when you take your baby home. There might be some problems with food intake, weight, allergies, breathing, emotional development and behavioral issues. Don’t be surprised if your mini version has tantrums or is too loud.
Your baby can have some long-term conditions as well and some issues with coordination, language, and thinking. But again, don’t forget that in many cases preemies can be healthy and happy.
2 Keep Walking
Whatever happens, one of the most terrifying things to do is to keep walking: to let go and continue with your life.
Medicine is really advanced and many preemies survive and become great individuals. However, premature birth is one of the biggest reasons for child mortality, especially in some developing countries.
For extreme cases, statistics show that the chance of survival in preemies born at less than 23 weeks is around zero, at 23 weeks is close to 15% at 24 weeks – 55% and at 25 weeks - 80%. Still, there’s always a chance for miracles.
But no matter what, you can continue with your life. You can be happy and enjoy the memory about your little baby. You’ll see that with time you’ll find peace and happiness.
Try to keep your family together and don’t be scared to have another baby in the future. It’s your life, so live it.
1 Keep The Love Alive
Having a preemie is stressful and painful. It’s terrible to wait: you cannot be sure when you’ll be able to hold your baby; you can’t be relaxed about his or her condition and development.
Sometimes, when there are long-term complications, it’s hard to feel like a parent because you can feel more like a health professional at home: dealing with physical and emotional issues. Often you need external help to show you how to look after your own baby.
It’s also difficult to deal with guilt, memories, and pain, and sometimes it seems impossible to go on. You might experience some apathy and despair or you might become too over-protective. You might even feel like running away.
However, try to keep you love alive. Love your baby, love your family, love your partner and love your life. Life is a miracle and we have to love every single part of it.