The gestation period can vary from woman to woman. Most commonly, women have claimed to have a gestation period of around 37-40 weeks, so we consider that to be the normal duration for a pregnancy. A healthy baby is usually delivered by women who go into labor around the 40th week. However, in some cases, women deliver their babies earlier than 40 weeks. If a baby is delivered prior to the 37th week, it is termed as a premature baby. While it is not something to be very scared of, premature babies require a significant amount of attention right after their birth to ensure their survival. The survival rate depends on exactly how premature your baby has been born.
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Now, if you are a first-time parent in her pregnancy, you might have a lot of questions regarding situations like this. Why are some babies born earlier? What complications can arise due to this? What can I do to ensure the good health of my child? Well, if you are looking for the answers to these questions, and others along the same lines, then worry not! We are here with the answers to all the questions that you may have regarding a premature baby.
Why are some babies born prematurely?
There are several factors that can lead to premature birth. These factors include the following:
- Age: Women under the age of 17 and over the age of 35 are statistically more likely to give birth to a premature baby.
- Diseases: If the mother has a disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or heart disease, then her chances of delivering a premature baby are higher.
- Pregnancy-related factors: Activities of the mother during pregnancy can also affect the birth of her child. It is seen that women who do not avoid smoking, alcohol, or the consumption of other illicit substances are more likely to give birth to a premature baby than those who lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Race: For reasons unknown, it has been seen that black women usually give birth to premature babies more predominantly than white women or even Hispanic women.
- Other factors: There are some other factors too that contribute to the birth of a premature baby. A wider cervix, an abnormal uterus, or the experience of premature birth in an earlier pregnancy may also be contributing factors to the birth of a premature baby.
What do premature babies look like?
Physically, premature babies look like much smaller versions of a full-term baby. In fact, very premature babies can be small enough to fit in your hand! However, there will be some very apparent physical markers of a premature baby.
- Skin: The baby’s skin will be flaky and dry. It may appear to b shiny and translucent. As the skin is not fully developed yet, the baby may not have fat under their skin to keep them warm.
- Hair: A premature baby will not have developed enough hair on their head. However, their body will be covered with soft hair, known as lanugo.
- Eyes: A premature baby’s eyes will be fused shut. The eyes open after 30 weeks of pregnancy.
- Genitals: A premature baby will have genitals that are smaller in size, as they are not fully developed yet.
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What happens during the birth of a premature baby?
The birth of a premature baby is a slightly more complicated process than a full-term baby.
- The birth of a premature baby always takes place at a hospital with NICU. In case the hospital you opted for does not have one, you will be transferred to one that does.
- Medicines will be given to you to stop the contractions for a while after you are in labour. You will also be given injections 12 to 24 hours prior to the delivery. This is done to allow your baby’s lungs to function better.
- The birth of a premature baby does not take too long. They are usually born through the vagina, however, in some special cases, the doctor suggests the mother opt for a C-section delivery. This discussion must be had with the doctor prior to delivery.
- A medical team from the neonatal unit will be present during the birth. Immediately after birth, they take care of the baby. They use a baby resuscitation bed to keep the baby. They ensure the warmth of the baby and help them breathe, with the help of oxygen masks or breathing tubes.
What complications can arise in the future?
The last few weeks of pregnancy are the most crucial for the proper development and growth of a baby. Premature babies do not get the time to develop fully. Although due to advances made in the medical field, they may survive, premature babies usually face a string of ailments due to their early birth. Premature babies may face the following complications in the future.
- Breathing problems
- Visual and/o hearing impairment
- Learning and/or physical disabilities
- Delayed growth
- Speech and coordination development problems
- Social and emotional problems
How can one take care of themselves to avoid premature delivery?
There are several things that would-be mothers can practice to lower their chances of delivering a premature baby.
- Eat healthily: Make sure that you are eating an adequate amount of food, and that the food you are consuming is healthy. It is always advisable to consult a dietician during your pregnancy to ensure that you are on the best possible diet to deliver a healthy baby.
- Drink lots of water: Doctors will always ask you to drink at least eight glasses of water on a daily basis. However, during pregnancy, if you indulge in exercise, make sure you increase the intake of water accordingly.
- Quit adverse habits: Quit smoking, alcohol consumption, as well as the intake of illegal drugs, if you indulge in them. These are known to adversely affect the development of the baby inside the womb.
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If you are concerned about the premature birth of your baby, then consult your doctor immediately. They will be able to provide appropriate solutions to all your queries and problems. We wish you all the best with your pregnancy!