What is preterm birth?
In a preterm birth a baby is born three weeks before the due date. On an average pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks, however, preterm birth occurs on the 37th week of pregnancy or even earlier. In case of a preterm birth the baby gets less time to develop in the womb. The organs are not fully developed and the baby runs the risk of health problems.
What is the cause of preterm birth?
Preterm birth occurs because labor begins prematurely, before the 37th week of pregnancy or even earlier. Due to uterine contractions the crevix opens earlier than normal.
What are the precautions to be taken to avoid preterm?
- A balanced diet is very important. Prenatal vitamins are need ed during pregnancy to prevent preterm delivery.
- Optimum weight must be maintained during pregnancy. Gaining too much weight or failing to gain enough weight can lead to preterm labor.
- A nutritious diet that has all essential nutrients must be consumed during pregnancy. Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which must be consumed along with leafy vegetables and fruits. Intake of food rich in vitamin C and Calcium must be consumed. This will reduce the risk of premature labor.
- Staying hydrated is equally important during pregnancy which helps to decrease contractions and carry the baby to full term.
- Take bathroom breaks when required. Holding urine can use urinary tract infections and inflammation of the uterus. This is also a cause of early labor.
- Pregnant women are also advised to lie in the polar bear position 4 times in a day for 10 to 15 min. This relaxes the crevix, moves the baby away from the crevix and closer to the lungs.
How does preterm birth affect the future of the baby?
- Preterm babies may show a delay in physical development, learning, communication skills and social skills.
- Preterm babies may develop lung and breathing problems such as asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. They are prone to lung infection like pneumonia, intestinal problems like necrotizing enterocolitis and vision problems like retinopathy of prematurity. They also suffer from meningitis, hearing loss and minor dental problems.
- Preterm babies also have behavior problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and neurological disorders like cerebral palsy and autism.
How we can overcome this preterm defect after baby birth?
- Preterm babies are placed in an incubator immediately after birth. As preterm babies have little body fat they struggle to keep themselves warm.
- Preterm babies are given breast milk or formula in case breast milk is not available. Preterm babies may be given milk from a feeding tube through the nose or mouth if they are too weak or small to take milk from a bottle.
- Preterm babies may have breathing problems so they are placed in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on a respirator.
- Preterm babies may also be administered phototherapy to relieve them from jaundice and high level of bilirubin.
- At the NICU when the preterm babies can digest milk on their own they have reached a huge milestone. Similarly the day they are moved to a regular crib they have taken a giant step in the improvement of their health and is ready to go home.
- After the preterm baby goes home parents must provide them with extra care such as physical therapy and speech therapy to that they can reach all their developmental milestones at the right time.
How much time it takes to recover the preterm baby’s deficiencies?
Babies born after 24 or 31 weeks of pregnancy may be kept in the incubator for 2 to 4 months. The babies are monitored for improvement in their ability to breathe and digest food during their stay at the NICU. Baby’s body weight is also measured. These are the important parameters to measure the progress of the preterm baby.
Preterm babies are at high risk of infection and other health complications so spending sufficient time at the NICU is critical. It is understandably a very difficult and frustrating time for the parents but they must be hopeful and patient during this time.
Amazing fact about preterm babies
Preterm babies are twice as likely to be left-handed than right-handed. Inheritance and genetic theory offered by research scientists and medical doctors have failed to provide a satisfactory explanation. And this interesting occurrence among preterm babies is under investigation.