As most of us do know, babies are usually born after nine months of developing in the womb. However, there will be times that a baby will be delivered right before 37 weeks. Most medical practitioners would say that babies born before 37 weeks of age are known as prematurely born babies.
Babies that are “full-term” are usually born right between 38 weeks to 40 weeks. But what are the differences, and why should we be vigilant if ever a baby is born prematurely?
What Counts As a Premature Baby?
In most cases, premature babies are known for suffering various health complications as they are not yet fully developed. Some of these babies will need to stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) right after giving birth since they might be in critical condition.
Most of the time, the health of these type of babies are quite fragile. Doctors, nurses, and medical practitioners will need to work around the clock when monitoring children’s health.
Common Characteristics in Premature Babies
While there are times when the effects of premature babies are only minor, most cases of premature births can be severe. Usually, most cases that are observed in babies will have the following symptoms:
- Premature babies are unusually small. A full-term baby’s average weight is around 3.5 kilograms, while a premature baby’s weight will be approximately 2.5 kilograms.
- The amount of fat in the body is minimal, with the number of muscles needed not being fully developed.
- It’s easy to see the veins underneath the skin, especially when the baby’s skin is very thin.
- Their sex organs are not developed, so it’s hard to determine the sex of the baby.
Since premature babies are not yet developed, they are quite susceptible to complications. What are these health issues?
- Respiratory problems. That will come in the form of neonatal pneumonia.
- Newborn jaundice
- Bleeding in the brain
- Necrotizing enterocolitis or when a part of your bowel system will die
- Underdeveloped retina
- Anaemic blood
These symptoms are quite severe and should be taken seriously. Most doctors would advise parents on letting their babies stay in the intensive care unit longer than usual. The general rule of thumb that hospitals follow is that premature babies will not be taken home until:
- They can regularly breathe by themselves.
- They can generate a stable body temperature and regulate heat by themselves.
How Does Premature Birth Affect Babies in the Long Term?
- Developmental disorders and trouble learning
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Dental issues
- More vulnerable to ailments
- Behavioural disorders
It’s important to note that as your child grows in the next few years to decades, it’s best to observe them. Identifying potential problems that will affect your child later on in life will help you draw up a plan to mitigate future health risks. Many professionals can help when it comes to disabilities and disorders.
In addition to professionals offering their services, prematurely-born babies do get vision impairment as they grow older. There are aids for the visually impaired designed to help those who have problems with their vision. As soon as these symptoms are professionally diagnosed, it’s crucial to start attending to these issues as early as possible.
What Are the Causes of Premature Birth?
There are several possible reasons why a mother could have a premature birth. The most common early birth cases will usually involve problems during labour and complications before going into labour.
- The gradual build-up of stress and sudden spikes in stress
- Bleeding in the womb. In some cases, an infection is another common reason.
- Being pregnant with more than one baby
But other than these involuntary circumstances, there will be times that premature birth is necessary, especially when the mother’s life is at stake. On rare occasions, perfectly healthy pregnant women will also give premature birth.
Premature birth can happen at any time, and there’s no telling when it will happen. The symptoms of almost any premature pregnancy will differ for each baby. It’s highly recommended to have a medical professional monitor your baby first. When the baby is now in a stable and safe condition, then they can be brought home at the doctor’s discretion.
Of course, when your baby is at home, you will still need to take extra care and precaution in ensuring that your child is getting the same amount of care and development as any other baby. It never hurts to contact your doctor regularly regarding your child’s development. Your child will need special care as he grows to stay healthy and strong.