According to the American Association of Premature Infants (AAPI), over 400,000 babies are born prematurely or at a low birth weight. As a result of being born early they are more likely to require high-technology intensive and specialized care in the hospital and follow-up care as infants and children. As a result, many have chronic medical problems and developmental problems. Some of the problems consist of respiratory distress, feeding issues, language delays and several other problems.
As a mother of a premature infant, I know these issues are a major concern when the baby is born and the stress that it can put on the families. In order to be able to deal with the situation effectively you have to acquire information and learn the good and the bad that come with having a premature infant.
When a baby is born prematurely there are a number of tests that the baby has to go through. First the doctors and nurses have to assess the baby’s heart, lungs, color and temperature. If the baby is having trouble with any of these things then it is taken into what is called the neonatal intensive care unit. In some of the smaller hospitals they aren’t equipped with the technology that is needed to keep the baby alive and the baby has to be transported to a bigger hospital, usually to a hospital in a metropolitan city in order to get the proper care. After the baby has been assessed for problems then it is watched closely for the next 48 hours.
This is the most critical time for a baby born too early. During this time the doctors can determine if the baby is going to have a long road ahead of them or if the baby is healthy and will pull through the whole thing with flying colors. Sometimes, they may seem healthy and are progressing well and then they could have a turn for the worse without any warning signs at all. For a parent, this can be very stressful and overwhelming all at the same time.
When a preemie is able to breathe on its own and its body can regulate the heart and body temperature on its own the child has a great chance of going home. This can take weeks and it can even take months, it depends on the baby and how healthy it is when it is born.
Going home is just the beginning of taking care of this very special individual. Some may go home without any worries and then there are some that are still having trouble with breathing. This is called apnea and when a baby has apnea they are monitored continuously until the baby’s lungs regulate the breathing. Some are sent home with oxygen to assist them with their breathing and some are sent home on monitors to make sure they are breathing correctly.
As a result of being born prematurely there are numerous doctors visits and then specialists that have to be seen to make sure that some of the medications given didn’t affect any of the baby’s internal organs following the arrival to their new home. For instance, a baby that gets too much oxygen at birth can have trouble with their eyes.
This is when a retinopathy of prematurity test is completed. This determines if the retina of the eyes are attached or detached from the eyeball. They are also checked more frequently for development and growth. A premature infant is normally behind in developing mentally and physically. On the average preemie they will catch up to the development and growth within the first two years of life. Some that have more health problems will be further behind. Although, preemies can have very few or numerous problems, they grow to be healthy happy children and adults.
Premature infants are very special. They have to go through so much, beginning with their entrance into the world, that they deserve the special treatment that they are given by all that care for them. A premature infant does not stay sick. They do get better and go on to live normal healthy and happy lives. It can be one of the most difficult things that a parent has to go through, but it helps you to appreciate what you have been given and makes a stronger person within the child and the parents.
American Association of Premature Infants 6 June 2000