What is Premature Baby? What are the precautions to be taken?
Do you know? Each year 1 in 10 babies in the United States are premature. When a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is a premature baby. Premature babies are susceptible to complications because their bodies are not fully developed and they are also lightweight, that is, their body weight is less than 5 Pounds. They have many health issues and are required to stay in the hospital longer.
Some of the problems faced by premature babies are neurological problems, cardiovascular complications, Respiratory problems Gastrointestinal and metabolic issues, Hematologic complications and Infections. Babies born at 36 to 37 weeks usually look like small full-term babies. Very premature babies will be small and look very fragile. The babies look like:
Skin: It might not be fully developed, and may appear shiny, translucent, dry or flaky. The baby may not have any fat under the skin to them to warm.
Eyes: The eyelids of very premature babies may be fused shut at first.
Immature development: The baby might not be able to regulate its body temperature, breathing or heart rate.
Hair: The baby may have little hair on its head, but lots of soft body hair.
Genitals: The babies’ genitals may be small and underdeveloped.
Preterm baby or premature birth is usually an unplanned event. Premature birth can have many causes which include problems with the foetus, the mother or both. However, about 50% of the time, the cause of premature birth is unknown. But even the cause is known, premature birth mostly comes as a result of premature rupture of the foetal membranes which initiates labour.
There are a number of risk factors that can put a pregnant woman at higher risk for having premature labour and delivery as if the mother is having previous premature labour than there is also a chance of having another premature labour. And another major risk factor is being pregnant with twins or multiple babies, untreated urinary infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Therefore, efforts have been primarily aimed to improve the survival and health of premature babies. It is important that certain measures need to be developed and implemented to prevent the health problems of premature infants and children. Some of the precautions to be taken:
You are at high risk of having a premature baby if:
• You had a premature baby before
• You are pregnant with twins or triplets
• You have or had complications related to your uterus or womb
PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN DURING PREGNANCY:
There are many reasons for preterm births or premature labor. However, some precautions that can be taken in your day-to-day life to avoid giving birth to a premature baby are:
Stay less stressed: Women who are anxious and extremely stressed during their pregnancy are likely to go into premature labor. Try meditation and relaxation techniques, whenever you feel stressed.
Stay away from smoking: Each cigarette contains toxic substances and chemicals. Once these chemicals especially nicotine and carbon monoxide go to your lungs and then to your bloodstream, they reduce blood flow to your womb. Your baby would not get sufficient oxygen and nutrition due to less blood flow. Babies born to smokers have very low body weight.
Stay away from alcohol: It is safest to give up alcohol completely during pregnancy because when you drink, the alcohol in your blood reaches your womb and your baby. Alcohol consumption not only increases the risk of having a premature baby, but it can also lead to miscarriage. It limits the growth of your baby and increases the chances of a stillbirth baby.
Get yourself checked regularly: Even if you are feeling fine during pregnancy, health check-ups are crucial. Regular check-ups will give you an idea, of how healthy you and your baby are.
Manage your weight: Being underweight or overweight puts you at risk of premature labor. Consult a doctor to learn about weight management and do not starve yourself or follow any weight reduction diets during pregnancy, eating right and avoiding junk food can do the trick if you are overweight.
Be Active: Being active does not mean going overboard with exercising. Try to walk, instead of driving. If you are going to a nearby place or instead of taking the elevator, try climbing the stairs. If you plan to exercise, consult a professional to ensure it is safe for you and your baby.
Wait Before You Get Pregnant: It is advised that you need to wait at least 18 months before you get pregnant again.
Check your medicines: Some medicines can be harmful to your baby for example painkillers like ibuprofen. Tell your doctor, if you are taking any medication for a long-term illness, during pregnancy. Vitamin supplements are usually not harmful to your baby.
Take care of your hygiene: Food poisoning and infections can be very harmful to your baby. Make sure you eat fresh food and take care of your oral hygiene. Wash your hands to avoid any infections.
Before pregnancy it is necessary to adopt specific professional policies that can immediately reduce the risk of preterm birth as the experience in assisted reproduction has shown when the number of embryos during embryo transfer is limited. These programs must protect pregnant women from hazardous or night shift work and provide them with paid pregnancy leave.
During pregnancy, healthy eating should be incorporated including nutritional adjustments, use of vitamin supplements. Calcium supplementation should be taken by women who have low dietary calcium.
Multiple pregnancies also result in the cause of premature birth.
Here are a few Signs and Symptoms of preterm labour:
• If your vaginal discharge is more than normal or if you observe any changes in your vaginal discharge.
• If you have constant pain in your back.
• If you experience cramps like period cramps.
• If you feel pressure in your pelvis.
• If you are frequently urinating.
Do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor/health provider/ midwife, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If you are bleeding from your vagina, you need immediate medical attention.
As a parent of a premature baby, it is important to take a few bits of information which help you to take care of your new baby. It is necessary for every parent to enjoy every moment together.
• It is important to get the team up with NICU and pediatrician.
• It is necessary to learn to coordinate with their sucking, swallowing, and breathing
• It is important to make sure that all the things are kept clean and neat
• It is necessary to keep the baby comfortable, as the baby should be dressed according to the season and temperature of your home.
• One has to remember that these struggles are a normal part of every parenthood and with help of the expertise of your baby’s health care team you should have all the tools you need to give your baby an amazing future.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately a million premature babies do not survive every year and even if they do, they are affected by long-term physical and mental ailments and cannot contribute much to the society.