The earlier the baby is born before the prescribed due date, the more likely it is for the premature babies to have health problems.
Some common risks premature babies are often observed to suffer from are:
- Sleep apnea – Characterised by a pause in breathing for about 20 seconds or more. It may occur simultaneously together along with a slow heart rate.
- Intraventricular haemorrhage – Characterised by bleeding in the brain near the ventricles located in the centre of the brain.
- Respiratory distress system – Common breathing problem in babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Babies with this disorder do not have surfactant that prevents small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.
- Jaundice and anaemia – The former happens when the baby’s liver is not fully developed or is not working well while the latter occurs when the baby does not have enough RBCs to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
Both of these tend to affect premature babies more than normal babies.
- Patent ductus arteriosus – A serious heart ailment that happens in the connection between two major blood vessels near the heart. Babies suffering from this can have breathing problems or heart failure when the heart cannot pump enough blood.
- Retinopathy – Caused when there is an abnormal growth in blood vessels of the eye. This disorder can lead to vision loss too.
- Temperature control problems – Premature babies stand to lose body heat more rapidly as they do not have as much stored body fat as a full-term infant. They cannot generate enough heat to counteract the loss. This can be worrisome because if body temperature dips too low, hypothermia can result.
- Infection – Preterm babies have more trouble in warding off germs and infections – pneumonia, lung infections, meningitis, blood infections are the most common – because of their less-developed immune systems.
Apart from these disorders which manifest and show up shortly after delivery, premature babies also have more chances to suffer from long-term illnesses like cerebral palsy, impaired development of cognitive skills, have vision and hearing problems, have poor dental hygiene, and also are more likely to suffer from chronic health issues like asthma. Premature babies are also at higher risk of SIDS.
Protocols for keeping a premature baby safe and sound wound vary from case-to-case. Some premature babies even need to be kept in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for close inspection and timely scrutiny. The baby may be discharged once he has gained sufficient weight (around 4 pounds), can breastfeed or bottle-feed, can breathe properly, and can keep warm without the incubator’s help.
Once you are back home with your baby, you have to keep on caring and tending to your premature baby the same way as you would do for a normally-timed baby. Doctors would have (in some cases) prescribed some extra procedures which need to be followed strictly. Also, the moment you feel that your baby’s condition is not looking to healthy, get back to the doctor and rush him back to the hospital.