A premature infant is a baby born before 37 completed weeks of gestation (more than 3 weeks before the due date). Some women hope for a premature baby, thinking a small baby may be easier to deliver. But premature labor is one of the most common problems in pregnancy. To avoid this, you must remember what you do during your pregnancy helps you carry your baby longer.
Risks associated with premature babies
Premature babies are very delicate and can have lifelong problems related to their prematurity. In general, the more premature a baby is, the more severe the problems. Many premature babies have breathing problems at birth. This is because their lungs did not have enough time to mature before they were born. Premature babies have to be on a ventilator for some time. Other common signs of premature birth include excess body hair, less body fat, lower muscle tone and less activity than full term infants. If a baby was born before two months of her due date, you could expect her to reach the developmental milestones two months later than a full term baby who was born on the same date. Some premature babies are born with heart problems and may need surgery.
Are all premature babies underweight?
Premature babies are usually underweight. In general, the longer babies can stay in the uterus, or the closer they are to term, the better building blocks they have for good health in the future. Babies weighing less than 2 kg at birth require special neonatal care for the first few weeks.
Risk factors for premature labor
- Working long hours and being tired all the time can lead to a preterm birth.
- Emotional abuse can lead to a preterm birth as it will lead to increased stress levels.
- An underweight mother can also lead to preterm birth. Sometimes this problem is helped by eating healthy, good food on a regular basis.
- Bleeding during second trimester. A small amount of bleeding can occur if the placenta begins to separate a bit from the lining of the uterus before labor starts. Always notify your doctor about bleeding.
- Common infections in mother like vaginal, cervical, kidney or bladder infections can also be the cause.
- Incompetent cervix is another cause. This is a rare condition in which the cervix dilates early.
- Some illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure may become out of control during pregnancy and in such situations the only way to stop the worsening condition is to deliver the baby.
How to prevent premature labor
- Balanced diet is good for you, your baby and your pregnancy. Pregnant women who eat at least five times a day (three meals and two snacks) are less likely to deliver prematurely.
- Dehydration can lead to premature contractions. Keeping yourself hydrated is very important.
- Take your prenatal vitamins and supplements regularly.
- Talk to your doctor if you have any risk factors such as diabetes, blood pressure or any type of infection.
- Doing regular exercise if also important. Consult with your doctor as to what kind of exercise are good option for you.
How to handle premature babies
- Where a baby is born prematurely, a mother might not be allowed to breastfeed her baby. You can then begin expressing and storing your breast milk for the time when your baby is ready for it. The baby’s digestive system will determine when he or she will be able to consume breast milk through a tube and then you can use the milk you have stored.
- For the first few months it will be wise to let your baby sleep next to you.
- Make sure he is warm when he sleep’s but take care that he doesn’t get too hot.
- Touch your baby as much as possible. This will help your baby to feel more secure.
- Low birth weight babies need to be monitored regularly. If your baby has any symptoms of jaundice, irregular breathing or fever, talk to your doctor immediately.
- You must visit your doctor regularly as low birth weight babies have greater risk of developmental problems like gaining the right height, weight, vision and hearing problems.
- Pay attention to your baby’s weight. Any rapid weight gain or loss should be checked with your doctor.