If you think that premature births are only when the child is born between 7-8 months of pregnancy, it is untrue. A premature baby is when the baby’s birth takes place more than three weeks before the due date. In technical terms, premature birth is the one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. There are various factors that lead to premature deliveries and premature babies need to be provided extra care to keep them safe from possible infections and illnesses. In this article, Dr. Praveen Kumar Venkatagiri, National Director– Neonatology & Clinical Operations at Milann Fertility & Birthing Hospital is sharing all the information about premature birth.
Causes of premature birth
Premature babies can happen suddenly without any cause. However, in some cases, it is due to chronic health conditions such as diabetes, drug or alcohol use, multiple pregnancies, high blood pressure during pregnancy, vaginal infection, or bleeding during pregnancy.
The causes also include:
- having a history of premature birth
- pregnancy with twins, triplets or multiples
- issues with uterus, cervix or placenta
- smoking and drinking
- stressful environment
Industry experts also state that conceiving babies through IVF come with higher risks and IVF leads to premature babies. This happens because, in IVF cycles, multiple embryo transfers are carried out that result in multiple pregnancies. Multiples usually are born prematurely and hence, IVF can lead to preterm births since the chances of multiple embryos being fertilized are higher.
Symptoms and complications of premature birth
Premature babies often have complicated medical problems. While these complications can vary and not all premature babies experience complications; but the early your baby is born, the more are the chances of complications.
Being a preterm baby can cause:
Short-term problems- breathing issues, cardiac problems, brain problems, temperature control issues, gastrointestinal issues, weakened immune system
Long-term health issues- cerebral palsy, impaired learning, vision problems, hearing issues, dental problems, behavior, and psychological problems, chronic health issues.
The symptoms of premature childbirth can vary. Some major signs of prematurity include:
- small size body with a disproportionate and large-sized head
- sharper looking, less rounded features
- underdeveloped organs as compared to a full-term baby’s features
- fine hair covering the body
- low body temperature, especially after the birth in the delivery room
- labored breathing or respiratory distress
- lack of reflexes for sucking and swallowing leading to difficulties while feeding.
How to take care of premature babies?
Preterm babies would often require a longer stay in the hospital in a special nursery unit. They need special care and attention to grow and develop outside their mother’s womb. Depending on the complications, the intensity of the symptoms, and how much care your baby requires, he or she will be admitted to an intermediate care nursery or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doctors and a specialized team meticulously take care of the preterm babies and offer 24/7 special care for your baby. For instance, the baby might need extra help for feeding and adapting immediately after delivery. The healthcare team specializing in newborn care will help you understand the baby’s needs and how to deal with the issues. The NICUs also help babies with breathing, feeding, gaining weight, and maintaining their own body temperature until the time they become healthy and capable enough to live in natural conditions with the mother.
As per a former report by WHO, approximately 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation). This implies more than 1 in 10 babies are premature and this number is surging. Preterm birth complications often are the primary cause of death among children under 6 years of age. However, WHO also highlights that feasible, cost-effective care facilities such as essential care during childbirth and postnatal period for both mother and the baby can help save premature babies.
Weight management in preterm babies
Babies usually gain weight during the third trimester. If the baby is born prematurely, there is a greater chance that the newborn would be underweight. Premature babies are often born with low weight and this could lead to short-term as well as long-term health complications. However, this weight can be maintained in a few simple steps.
- Breastfeeding your premature baby every 2-3 hours
- massaging the baby's body with oil
- eating mindfully and including proteins in your diet, along with going for regular checkups can help gain the baby's weight in a healthy manner
Establishing skin-to-skin contact with the baby and touching the baby often helps establish the bond between the child and the parent, keeps the baby warm, and regulates his/her heartbeats and breathing rate. Cuddling the baby and loving him/her also helps boost the physical and emotional health of the baby.
Also Read: Air Pollution Linked To 6M Preterm Births A Year, Study Finds
While taking a nutritious diet, avoiding risky substances such as alcohol and smoking, and seeking prenatal care is essential; pregnancy spacing, staying cautious while using Assisted Reproductive Technologies, and managing chronic conditions are equally important to prevent premature delivery. Various healthcare providers, hospitals, and fertility centres are aiming at offering high-end women and child care with their NICUs backed by neonatal care specialists. They are assisting the patients, right from the preconception to post-delivery stages, and help treat the premature babies so as to deliver healthy babies to the parents and help them experience the joy of parenthood!
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