Most people hear the word preemie and they tend to cringe a little. It is definitely scary and nerve racking when you or someone you love has a baby before that nine month mark. An average of one out of eight babies are born premature. Preemies tend to have health issues, not to mention the odds of surviving usually aren't in their favor. Although its a mess of stress, preemies can usually pull through. The closer you are to your due date the better off. There are several things that differ a preemie and full term baby and things you need to know about your preemie.
14 Preemie vs. Full Term
A full term baby is a baby that is born after the full forty weeks it takes for him/her to develop. A preemie is born any time before 37 weeks. A full term baby is usually born healthy and can leave the hospital to go home after a couple days. A baby that is born prematurely is required to stay in an ICU/NICU for sometime depending on their development. Due to being born early preemies may have different mile stones while growing than a full term baby.
13 Probable Causes for Premature Birth
Everyone knows its easy to blame yourself when it comes to the health of the baby your creating, especially when there's a problem. In some cases there is no reason for the preterm birth but there's also a chance that you could be the one to blame. Obesity, too low or too high maternal age, lack of prenatal care, not the right amount of weight gain, and substance abuse are all factors of premature birth so be careful and take care of yourself, its not about you anymore, you have precious cargo. Infection, premature rupture of membranes, stress, chromosomal faults, multiple gestations, and family history are all natural things that can cause the same outcome. Take it easy and listen to your body.
12 Lower Your Risk
How can you lower your risk? There's no doubt that in some scenarios, there is no getting around it. There's nothing you can do about family history or the rupture of membranes or cell abnormality and things of that sort. You just have to do you best. However, some of these things can be modified. If your a smoker quit smoking, that's one of the highest causes for low birth weight. If you have previously had a preemie you may be proscribed a medication to help prevent it from happening again. TAKE IT ! Go to your doctor appointments. Take those vitamins everyday. Make sure you don't overdue anything in your everyday life, you just cant handle the work load you used to pre pregnancy. Get your rest and eat several small healthy meals rather than a few big ones.
11 The Birth Process
If you know that you are likely to have a preemie, you need to be well aware how the birth process may differ from a full term birth. Preterm labor can be very quick, so its very important that you recognize the signs of labor and get to your medical facility as soon as possible. Also you may have to have steroid shots to help your little one's lungs develop and expand for breathing. In some cases your doctor might try to stop and/or slow down your labor, for odds of a healthier baby. During labor you'll have several more helpers then you would with a full term to get your baby out safe and to get them the fastest medical attention they will need. You may get nervous or scared because you probably won't here him scream when he comes out and it will be hard that you wont be able to see or hold him right away. Your preemie will most likely be taken straight to the NICU for special care. Hang in there momma, it's for the best.
10 Nutritional Needs
Obviously breast milk is ideal for all babies but formula will work when breastfeeding isn't possible. It's common in all babies that the doctor may recommend that you give your infant extra vitamin D supplements to help absorb nutrients that will strengthen your baby's bones. Premature babies will likely also need to have extra iron to grow and develop properly. Preemies do not have the same efficient iron reserves as a full term babe.
9 Digestive Development
In general, infants are not able to suck and swallow before 34 weeks in the womb. A baby born before then will need a feeding tube inserted to maintain nutritional health and growth. Although it's very common for even full term babies, infants born before thirty five weeks are much more likely to have jaundice. If jaundice isn't cleared up soon enough it can cause brain damage due to the bilirubin build up in the babies bloodstream. Also, anemia is more common in preemies.
Jaundice is a liver condition that happens when the body is not getting rid of its old blood cells fast enough. When red blood cells break down, a substance called bilirubin - yellow colored pigment of red blood cells - is created. When the body can't get rid of the bilirubin, it gets stored in the blood stream. This usually causes a yellow tint to the skin and/or whites of eyes. If the levels of bilirubin are too high, your newborn will be placed in an enclosed incubator under a florescent light that is absorbed by his/her skin. The better the liver is developed and functioning the easier it will be to recover.
Anemia happens when their isn't enough healthy red blood cells/hemoglobin in the body. Hemoglobin is a main part of the red blood cell and it binds oxygen. If your baby doesn't have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin then it can cause lack of oxygen to their body which prevents their organs from functioning properly. Although its not uncommon for adults to be anemic, and for them to pass it on to their child, preemies have a higher chance of being born with or becoming anemic due to lack of organ development. Anemia can cause baby to be tired more than normal, have a lack of appetite, pail skin, fussy, and rapid heartbeat, but may not affect your baby at all. In most cases higher iron intake will help and/or take care of it.
6 Respiratory Development
Although some full term infants may have breathing problems, most will not. However, babies that are born before the thirty fifth week of gestation will likely have underdeveloped lungs. Infants that have lungs that are not fully functioning will have respiratory issues. In severe cases your infant would need assistance breathing. A preemie will have trouble maintaining body temperature as well, where as in most cases that's a struggle that full term babies don't face.
5 Going Home
Full term babies are normally good to go home with minimal care instructions two to three days after being born. Preemies will have to stay at the hospital to be specially cared for and monitored for days, weeks or even months depending on the circumstances. I know it seems like you will never be able to get that miracle home and to yourself but don't worry, you will. It's super important that she can breathe easily, eat and maintain body temperature before she is released to go home.
4 Take it Easy
Parents to preemies are probably both relieved and nervous when it's finally time to take their baby home. By the time you get cleared to take home that bundle of joy she will be a lot like other babies. However, you do still need to be a little more cautious then you would with a full term baby. Limit contact with visitors and make sure you and everyone around your baby has clean, washed hands. Avoid crowded areas and don't let sick people come into contact with the baby. Everywhere you are becomes a no smoking zone especially in the house and in your car. If anyone in the household smokes they should quite immediately. Take your baby outside in small increments to avoid long exposer to drafts and direct sunlight.
3 Motor Skills
Motor skills in your premature child may come slower than in a full term infant. These skills include but are not limited to holding head up and crawling. A preemie tends to stay more straight where as a full term prefers to have their limbs flexed. Premature babies have a difficult time using their muscles because they are not fully developed for their body. Preemies don't flex their muscles much because they haven't had much time in the womb tightly folded due to being born early. Full term babies will sit without support between four to seven months where as preemies, it's usually between 6 to 10 months.
2 Mile Stones
Don't listen to other people when it comes to your preemie's developmental mile stones. The mile stones for your preemie will differ from a full term baby. It will be slower but over time your infant will catch up and no one will be able to tell. Your doctor will keep a close eye on him to determine whether or not he is developing on schedule. If your health care provider feels he is not developing at the right pace your baby may need to work with a developmental specialist who can help prevent interventions to hopefully prevent long term disabilities.
1 Don't Worry
Premature births are scary but way more common than people think. Sometimes your baby may suffer short term or long term disabilities, but its not uncommon that she will be perfectly fine. Take a deep breathe and have faith that everything will be alright. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions, the more you know the better you will feel. It will be rough for a while but most of the time, after that first year of life your tiny miracle will be all caught up to babies that were born at full term. No one will be able to tell the difference.