The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 15 million babies are born each year prematurely. If you have ever been around a premature baby or if you have been part of a premature birth yourself, you know how gentle these children are. They are like adorable little snowflakes we need to take care of diligently. However, in that case, you also know how fragile their health can be.
In this article, we will discuss 4 health risks you should be aware of if you are taking care of a premature baby. It is going to be a difficult read, but hopefully, by the end, you will have a much better idea of how to take care of such an infant.
Immune System Challenges
Premature babies are often born before their immune systems have fully developed, which makes them more susceptible to infections. This increased risk of infections is a major concern for parents and healthcare providers, as premature babies are often admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), where they are at higher risk of exposure to harmful germs and bacteria.
Infections can have serious consequences for premature babies, including sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia, all of which can be life-threatening. In addition to being more susceptible to infections, premature babies are also at increased risk of developing long-term health problems. These health problems can include chronic lung disease, developmental delays, and even death.
But what can you do? Bliss organization reports that the simplest step is washing your hands before you touch the baby, and if someone else absolutely has to touch her, make them do the same. Other than that, you should keep the environment around her clean and never reuse a piece of tissue you have already used for her. Also, encourage others, especially if they are sick, to watch the child from afar instead of coming close.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious intestinal disease that affects premature infants. NEC occurs when the tissues in the baby’s intestine become inflamed and begin to die, which can lead to various complications with her health, and in worst cases, death.
NEC is a common problem in premature babies, particularly those who were born before 32 weeks of gestation and those with low birth weight. We do not know exactly what causes NEC, but it is believed to be related to a combination of factors, including immaturity of the digestive system, bacterial overgrowth in the intestine, and lack of blood flow to the intestine.
However, what we do know is that feeding your child breast milk can reduce the chances of NEC taking hold of your baby. Research published in the National Library of Medicine states that a number of studies have shown that cow milk-based infant formulas lead to more frequent incidents of NEC among premature babies compared to human milk.
Many parents are now taking some baby formula manufacturers to court for either knowingly manufacturing a dangerous product or not disclosing the potential side effects. We hope that the growing number of NEC baby formula lawsuits will raise awareness regarding this issue and that more people will thoroughly consult a doctor before feeding their child baby formula.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is a common problem for premature babies, who are often born before their lungs have fully developed. RDS occurs when the premature baby’s lungs lack surfactant, a substance that helps keep the tiny air sacs in the lungs open and functioning properly. As a result, the air sacs can collapse and cause difficulty breathing.
Symptoms of RDS include rapid breathing, grunting or gasping, and a bluish tint to the skin or lips. If RDS is suspected, a premature baby will typically undergo a series of tests, including X-rays and blood gas tests, to confirm the diagnosis.
Stanford Medicine Writes that treatment for RDS typically involves providing the premature baby with supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation to help improve breathing and oxygenation. In some cases, surfactant replacement therapy may also be necessary to help improve lung function and prevent the development of chronic lung disease.
With prompt and appropriate treatment, many premature babies with RDS recover fully and go on with growth and development.
Brain Injury & Developmental Delays
Premature birth can have a significant impact on a baby’s brain development, leading to a higher risk of brain injury and developmental delays. Brain injury in premature babies can occur as a result of a lack of oxygen, blood flow issues, or inflammation and can result in problems such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, and vision and hearing problems.
Developmental delays are also common in premature babies, as they may miss important milestones in their development while they are in the NICU. These delays can include problems with fine and gross motor skills, communication and language, and social and emotional development.
It is important for parents to be aware of the potential long-term effects of prematurity on brain development and to provide appropriate support and interventions to help improve outcomes for premature babies. With early identification and treatment of brain injury and developmental delays, many premature babies can go on to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
After such a bummer, let’s end this on a positive note. Do you know what Sir Isaac Newton, Stevie Wonder, Anna Pavlova, Mark Twain, and Sir Winston Churchill all had in common? They were all born prematurely.
A premature birth is not a death sentence. It is simply an additional challenge a baby has to overcome as she grows up. And a child who overcomes such a challenge so early on can do anything she sets her mind to.