Out of 35 lakh premature babies born annually in India, 3.03 lakh babies die due to preterm complications. But with the advancement of medical science over the last few years, mortality rates have improved drastically. Complication varies from one baby to another. There are short-term and long -term health issues with a preterm baby.
Premature babies can have a problem throughout their lives and also there are problems that may not even crop up until adulthood.
Premature babies may have developmental disabilities: physical disabilities as well as intellectual disabilities. These complications vary from the gestational age and the level of prematurity of the baby.
Says Dr Bhaskar Shenoy, General Paediatrician, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru:
“It all depends upon the gestational age. More mature the baby, better is the outcome. There is a difference between a baby whose weight at birth is 700 gms and another whose weight is 1200 gms. Higher birth weight and longer maturity of birth have better chances of survival and long-term health.”
Dr Shenoy says, “The second factor is the complications a child has during birth. For example, if there are intracranial bleeds or the amount of resuscitation done or the time taken by a child to take the first breath – these are factors determining the final outcome. Not all premature babies will have a negative impact. Most of them have a normal life.”
Physical disabilities include Neurological disorders, speech disorder, asthma, necrotizing enterocolitis (also known as NEC) which is a treatable intestinal disorder though some babies may have a problem later on in life, pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and meningitis (infection of the brain) are a common problem with premature babies.
Vision disorders like amblyopia (lazy eye due to unequal vision), decreased color vision, nystagmus (frequent jerking movements of the eye), poor vision, and smaller field of vision, Strabismus (inward or outward turning off one or both eyes).
Hearing problem and dental problems like abnormal enamel formation, high arch or groove to the palate, an abnormal bite can be a long-term problem with premature babies.
Intellectual disabilities include autism, behavioral disorders which involve bipolar disorder, Attention deficit hyperactive disorder also known as ADHD and anxiety; they might grow severe temper tantrums and become aggressive or may be extremely shy or excessively loud. Learning disabilities, lack of communication skills, unable of taking care of oneself.
All these cases are subjective to the baby’s health there are many people who are born premature but are leading a healthy and happy life without any complications related to premature birth.