Common Preterm Birth Complications
A normal pregnancy lasts between 37 and 40 weeks in order to allow the fetus not only a complete development but also enough growth and weight gain to face extra uterine life challenges.
When a baby bornes before pregnancy week 37 the birth is considered preterm and on most of cases complications are expected; furthermore complications chances increase while the gestational age is lower; so a 35 weeks preterm baby is expected to have less complications chances than a 30 weeks one.
Due to neonatal medical care development, nowadays a preterm baby may survive after an only 25 weeks pregnancy (birth weight around 500 gr), but critical complications are expected on such cases.
Below such gestational age, the baby is not mature enough to face extra uterine life and death occurs on more than 99% of cases.
For those babies born between 25 and 36 weeks, many complications may arise until they achieve a "safe weight". On this regard, it's important to say that neonatal intensive care unit care is mandatory to assure a good outcome on all preterm births; otherwise survival rates are very low, especially on very short pregnancies.
Once outside the womb, a preterm baby needs to be held on an incubator to keep a boy temperature around 37 ºC (98.6 ºF) since the baby is not still able to keep body temperature stable.
Additionally further different life support therapies will be required, depending of birth weight, gestational age when born and detected complications.
The most common issue with preterm babies, especially those with born before 34 weeks, is Respiratory Distress.
That's because lungs are not mature enough leading to its collapse due to the lack of surfactant, a chemical substance produced by lung cells in order to keep alveoli open.
Depending of the respiratory distress degree, treatment goes from an enriched oxygen atmosphere up to intubation and mechanical ventilation, in addition to pharmacologic treatments to promote lung maturation.
On the other hand, many preterm babies are not strong enough to feed on their own; that means, they are not able to breastfeed because lack of muscular strength as well motor coordination, so a feeding tube may be required until they are strong enough to breastfeed.
Another complication is neonatal jaundice. On these cases, skin and mucosa turns yellow because of a raise on bilirubin blood levels due to immature liver. The treatment for this condition is phototherapy, always in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The aforementioned are the most common complications of preterm babies, but not the unique. In fact, there's a risk associated to the NICU care as well: Infection development.
Despite of extreme hygiene measures, there's an increased risk of infections when a baby stays at NICU, in fact, the longer the stay, higher the risks. That's a consequence of the combination of an incomplete mature immune system as well the risk of contamination with hospital living germs.
In order to minimize infection risks, everything used in NICU must be sterile, in addition hand washing is mandatory before and after manipulating a baby. On this regard manipulation must be limited as much as possible, not only to prevent infections but also to allow the baby to save energy which will be headed towards growth and weight gain.
Once the respiratory distress has been managed; feeding is assured, neonatal jaundice treated and infections avoided; there are still many other complications which could arise.
If you wish to know Critical Preterm Babies' Complications, Click HERE.