Premature birth is a birth that takes more than three weeks before the baby’s estimated due date. In other words, premature birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature babies, especially those born very early, often have complicated medical problems. Although, the level of complication varies, as the earlier the infant is born, the higher the risk of complications.
Depending on how early the infant is both, the child may be;
Late preterm: born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of pregnancy
Moderately preterm: born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy
Very preterm: born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
Extremely preterm: born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy
Most premature births occur in the late preterm stage.
There are sometimes mild symptoms of premature birth, at other times, there may be more obvious complications. These signs include;
Baby has a small size, with a disproportionately large head
Sharper looking, less rounded features than a full-term baby’s features, due to lack of fat stores.
Fine hair (lanugo) covering most of the body
Low body temperature, especially immediately after birth in delivery room due to a lack of stored body fat
Labored breathing off respiratory distress
Lack of reflex for sucking and swallowing leading to feeding difficulties.
If one delivers a preterm infant, the baby most likely needs a longer hospital stay in a special nursery unit at the hospital. Depending on how much care the infant requires, the baby will be admitted to an intermediate care nursery or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A group of medical professionals with training will take care of the preterm baby and will be available to care for the infant. Also as a parent, do not hesitate to ask questions.
Your infant might need extra help in feeding and adapting immediately after delivery. With the help of the healthcare team, you can understand what is needed and how your baby’s care plan will be.
It is extremely important to know that there are risk factors that come with premature birth. These factors include:
Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
An interval of fewer than six months between pregnancies
Conceiving through in vitro fertilization
Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
Smoking cigarettes or using illicit drugs
Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
Multiple miscarriages or abortions
Physical injury or trauma
Birth weight plays an important role in determining complications in a premature infant.