18 Things You Might Not Know About Premature Birth

For many moms, the first signs of premature labor are obvious contractions. But for some, premature labor began with nothing more than a general “off” feeling or minor flu-like symptoms.

Mothers who deliver their babies early produce milk that’s perfectly designed to nourish premature babies. A preemie mom’s milk will have extra minerals, fat, and protein, along with leukocytes and antibodies to protect their preemies from infection.

Half of all neurological disabilities in children are related to preterm birth.

The first line of treatment for incidents of apnea of prematurity (where breathing stops for more than 15 seconds) is often stimulation of the preemie’s skin by patting or rubbing – both of which can help a baby begin breathing again.

Umbilical and inguinal hernias occur more often in preterm infants. Umbilical hernias are usually self-resolving but inguinal hernias require surgery.

Severe cases of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia (aka jaundice) can actually result in brain damage! Phototherapy can seem a bit silly but it’s really vital for the preemies who need it.

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a heart problem that’s relatively common in preterm infants. It may require surgery to repair the defect but in some cases it can be resolved with nothing more than a dose of ibuprofen.

Research has found that moms who give birth within 18 months of having a baby are much more likely to have a preemie.

Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Sir Winston Churchill, Victor Hugo, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Isaac Newton were all preemies!

Preemies are much more susceptible to infections than full-term babies because the transfer of maternal IgG antibodies to the fetus usually happens after the 28th week of pregnancy.

Premature birth is the number one cause of neonatal mortality in the US.

Premature birth varies a lot. There are late-term preemies, born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. These babies often have fewer complications. Preemies born at less than 33 weeks of pregnancy are at risk for more conditions. And micropreemies (those born at 25 weeks or less) are at the greatest risk for serious health issues and long-term complications.

Race and gender can affect preemie outcomes.

Preemie skin may be very fragile, wrinkly, and red – especially in the earliest preemies. It’s also much more permeable than a full term baby’s skin, making them more vulnerable to infection and less able to regulate their temperature.

Micropreemies are typically born with their eyelids still fused. Typically, they will open their eyes about six days after birth. Because fused eyelids are associated with earlier births, studies correlate fused eyelids and overall outcomes – 52% percent of babies born with their eyelids fused survived to be discharged from the hospital, compared to 83% of those born with eyelids open.

A preemie’s development may be evaluated according to an “adjusted age,” which is their chronological age minus the difference between birth date and due date.

Most preterm birth happens for unknown reasons, which makes it very difficult to prevent it.

Parents of preemies are at risk for developing depression, anxiety, and PTSD. But studies have shown that kangaroo care can reduce the chances mothers of preemies will develop postpartum depression or anxiety.


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