A premature baby can be like a delicate gift-wrapped present that your heart refuses to open; with translucent tubes for ribbons and wrinkly pink skin for wrapping paper. You know that the longer you wait, the better this little package will be. Meanwhile, you tell your heart to be still, for the wait will be worth it.
While it’s true that not all preterm babies are born at risk of complications, premature birth can entail both short-term and long-term health concerns for early-bird babies. The more preterm a baby is, the higher the odds of health complications.
A preemie’s birth weight serves as an important yardstick in measuring overall risk and in determining requisite interventions. And while some health hiccups may present themselves right at the very outset, some may dawn later.
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If you run the risk of delivering one or more premature babies, make sure to consult a doctor to know the best road to take. Early intervention can remedy setbacks triggered by premature labour.
Here, we give you the 5 most common health problems that preemie babies are likely to face, and ways that you can conquer each one.
Preemie Problem 1: Apnoea
Condition: Apnoea implies a temporary cessation in breathing, sometimes associated with a laboured heart rate.
Remedy: Apnoea can be alleviated with a simple message to stimulate the respiratory system. For extended or recurrent episodes of apnoea, a neonatologist may clip a specialised continuous positive airway pressure device to your newborn’s nose, or slide a narrow tube through her windpipe to mechanically activate ventilation.
Your doctor may also recommend using an apnoea monitor equipped with electrodes, at home. Apnoea typically subsides around the six-month mark, and you’ll probably find that you no longer need a monitor at home.
Preemie Problem 2: Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia
Condition: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a chronic lung disease that preemie babies are especially susceptible to. It is usually caused by damage as a result of immature lung development.
Remedy: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia can be treated through a combination of techniques, such as augmented oxygen glow, calorie-enriched breast milk or formula, and use of a bronchodilator for fluid drainage and lung patency.
As your baby grows and gains weight and strength, her lungs will fortify and the condition should wane. The healing period varies from baby to baby; from a few months in some cases to a few years in others.
Preemie Problem 3: Intraventricular Haemorrhage
Condition: Intraventricular haemorrhage refers to the rupture of one or more underdeveloped blood vessels in a preterm baby’s brain, leading to the flow of blood to empty cerebral cavities. The condition normally occurs within the first week of a preemie’s life.
Remedy: Intraventricular haemorrhage often heals organically and seldom requires clinical intervention. An assortment of scans may be required to diagnose the condition, including cranial ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs. Very rarely, haemorrhaging may arrest the downward flow of fluid from the brain, leading to hydrocephalus, a condition where fluid persistently gathers around the brain.
In such a case, a surgical operation may be needed to alleviate the pressure.
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Preemie Problem 4: Jaundice
Condition: Jaundice is caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin in the blood. In preterm babies, jaundice is usually a result of the underdeveloped liver not being able to process byproducts from the breakdown of red blood cells. Alternatively, the condition may be a manifestation of blood group incompatibility.
Remedy: Jaundice in newborns is best treated with phototherapy, a procedure that uses blue spectrum lights called bililights to sweep away excess waste from the blood. Severe cases of preemie jaundice may require a partial or complete blood transfusion.
Preemie Problem 5: Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Condition: Respiratory syncytial virus presents symptoms that mimic the common cold. Coughing, swollen mucous membranes and breathing difficulties are typical of the condition and left untreated, the virus could morph into a severe lung infection.
Thus, it is important to watch closely for symptoms. Although all babies are at risk of this virus, preterm babies are especially susceptible due to their immature immune systems.
Treatment: Antiviral drugs are recommended options to counter the respiratory syncytial virus. That said, securing your baby against the virus altogether, is a far better option than treating it once it strikes. The Synagis vaccine is a preventive inoculation that is advisable for preterm babies.
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Preemies require intensive care, 24/7 monitoring and life support during their first few months, but with the right intervention and treatment, there’s very little to worry about.
On Cloudnine, our world-class NICUs are little harbours of specialised care and our expert neonatologists are equipped to handle a diverse range of conditions stemming from prematurity.
Speak to a doctor on Cloudnine today if you think you’re likely to deliver a preterm baby. By planning early, we’ll make sure to gift-wrap your little one in good health, healing and happiness.
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