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Premature Babies

What is a premature baby?

A mature baby is born after the full normal pregnancy term i.e. between 37th to 42nd week of the gestation period. This is the period when the baby becomes fully mature and is able to survive the environment outside the mother’s womb. In some cases, the baby is born before the 37th week of gestation period, and it is not mature enough to survive outside the womb on its own. This type of delivery is called premature delivery and the the babies are called premature babies.

Reasons behind premature birth

There is no particular cause or reason behind a pre-term delivery, but certain factors like strenuous activities during pregnancy might induce pre-term birth. Other factors that can cause an early delivery are lack of nutrition, diabetes as well as smoking.

 Other reasons behind premature birth are:

  • Premature rupture of membranes

  • Vaginal infection

  • Uterus abnormalities

  • Cervical weakness

  • Heavy bleeding during pregnancy

  • Carrying twins or triplets

 A premature delivery might as well need to be induced in case the mother has experienced some trauma or blow on the belly or if the baby’s development in the womb is not as satisfactory.

 Risks that premature babies face

 Premature babies find it very difficult to adapt to the environment outside the womb, and thus stand a risk of contacting various infections. A premature child possesses the risk of several health issues in the long run. Some of them include:

  • Thyroid problems

  • Cardiovascular complications

  • Respiratory problems

  • Gastrointestinal and metabolic issues

  • Learning disabilities

  • Developmental disabilities

Other haematologic conditions as well as moderate to severe disabilities like cerebral palsy, impaired vision and hearing might also occur.

All the above mentioned factors are a possibility and not all premature babies suffer from the above mentioned problems. Good neonatal care can help in normal development of a premature baby and the child may grow up to become a healthy individual.

Premature baby care

The development in premature babies is not complete and they cannot easily survive the environment and conditions outside the mother’s womb. Due to this they need extra care and suitable environment to develop, however, the intensity of care needed as well as survival chances depend on the week of the gestation period during which the baby was born.

Depending on the week during which a pre-mature baby is born, it can be classified as:

  • 32nd to 37th week – mildly pre-term

  • 28th to 31st week – moderately pre-term

  • before 28th week – extremely pre-term

Neonatologists who specialise in providing effective treatment and care for pre-term babies constantly monitor the condition of the baby. Extremely pre-term babies are kept in intensive care units where they are provided with a favourable environment for complete growth and development. The neonatal care unit provides climate, temperature and moisture control in the incubators thus providing a womb like environment to facilitate survival and growth. These incubators are also designed to provide the required nutrition and germ free environment.

 In certain cases of moderately pre-term babies and mildly pre-term babies breastfeeding is encouraged to strengthen the immune system, fight back infections and provide adequate nutrition to the baby. Breastfeeding also builds an emotional bond between the mother and baby. It has been scientifically proven that if the baby forms a bond with it’s mother the chances of survival and growth are better and brighter. ‘Kangaroo care’ is a newly introduced term that includes simple measures such as skin to skin warming and forming a connection with the babies via touch is very effective in reducing pre-term mortality.

 After a pre-mature baby is discharged from the hospital and brought home it is the responsibility of the parents and the other family members to maintain hygienic conditions in the house. If the baby is not in great health visitors should not be entertained. Appropriate care, regular breastfeeding and other schedules, which are advised by the doctor should be followed to ensure normal development of your child.

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