Premature babies have a greater chance of survival these days than ever before. But if a baby is born prematurely it means that she hasn't yet developed sufficiently to cope with life outside your uterus.
Well there are many reasons that your baby may be born early, and all sorts of things can lead to premature labour.
If you think you may be in premature labour then contact your midwife or GP straight the way, if they aren't available, try and get to A&E (Accident and emergency) or call an ambulance.
There are lots of things that the medical staff will want to consider before they make any decisions about letting your labour continue, or whether they will try and stop it from progressing.
If you are past the 34 week mark, they may let you deliver your baby, under 34 weeks and they may try to stop the labour from continuing. This is because your baby is not mature enough yet to venture into the outside world.
Medical staff can try to stop the premature labour by putting you on a drip. There are two types of IV drips that the doctors can use. One is drug free, and is mainly used if the mothers premature labour is due to being dehydrated. The other is an anti-contraction medication, which can be used to slow and sometimes stop the labour (although this is normally only temporary)
Premature baby care would depend upon what gestational age they are born at. Any baby born before 32 weeks, and that weighs under 3 pounds and 5 ounces is likely to have breathing difficulties. The lungs of babies born before 32 weeks do not secrete a substance called Surfactant. This stops the inner surface of the lungs from sticking together. This can cause a condition known as RDS, respiratory distress syndrome. If your baby were to be born with this problem then the neonatal unit have an artificial surfactant that they will use to treat your baby.
Premature babies are more likely to develop infections as their immune systems are very low.
A premature baby's liver can be very immature leading to jaundice. This will be treated by the baby being placed under a phototherapy light.
Babies that are born early will be placed into an incubator and kept in a neonatal ward. Neonatal wards can look very scary indeed. When my son was born he had a heart murmur and had to go up to neonatal ward for an ECG test. There are lots of ventilators helping babies to breath, monitors will be flashing and maybe beeping, and the babies could have wires on them to monitor heart rates, and breathing etc.
You may build a very strong bond with some of the doctors and nurses as they could be caring for your baby for a number of weeks.
Obviously the further along you are in your pregnancy, the better chance your baby will have of survival if she is born early.
If your baby is born at 25 weeks she has a 50% chance of survival, although this rate drops drastically with each week prior that the baby is born.
if your baby is born before 22 weeks, the chances that she would survive are almost minimal. The chances that she could survive without serious problems is practically zero. Babies born before 22 weeks are likely to have serious brain damage and other conditions.
Babies born before 22 weeks, will not normally be placed into intensive care unless the parents make a strong appeal, and even then the doctors will have to agree that this is the best decision for the baby.Some doctors think that it is very unfair to put such a small baby through such aggressive treatments, when it is highly likely that the baby will not respond and will not get any better, and survival is unlikely anyway.
You will be encouraged to spend time in the neonatal unit, or special care baby unit. You can express some milk to feed your baby, if she isn't feeding properly yet there will be a tube which will deliver the milk to her tummy. If she is too young for baby milk, then she will be fed by a drip, this will deliver the essential nutrients that she needs.
Once your baby is fit enough to go home, you may be invited to spend the night at the unit with her. This helps you get used to having your baby wake you for a feed, and the nurses will be there just in case you have any problems.
Taking home a premature baby will be a worrying time. You will likely wrap her up in cotton wool. Premature babies do catch up very well, and most experts say that by the time your baby is 3 years old, sometimes even earlier. She will have caught up with other 3 year olds around her.
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