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Have you ever seen those babies that are unbelievably small? As we already know babies are super tiny and cute, but did you know babies can be too tiny? The World Health Organization defines prematurity as babies born before 37 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. (Willacy) Recent data indicate that >1 in 10 babies born around the world in 2010 were premature and this translates to an estimated 15 million preterm births. (Willacy)
“In 2013, about one third (36%) of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes.” (CDC 1) A premature, preterm, or preemie are all known as an infant that is born before the 37th-week mark in the third trimester of pregnancy.
What causes preterm labor to happen? There are many unknown causes as well as many known causes such as a mother’s drug use, stress induced labor, sometimes the body allows it too soon, and at times a doctor may call for a mother to be induced early to have their babies before 37 weeks due to medical complications, but only if the doctor believes it’s what’s best for the infant and mother. The earlier a baby is born, the less likely it is to survive.
Drugs, smoking, and alcohol play a giant factor in making a preterm infant due to low birthweight, lack of development, and becoming unable to breath on their own. A lot of babies that are premature due to drug use become addicted and our born with it in their systems as well, a lot of them won’t make it to see the outside of a NICU. If you’ve already had a preterm baby, or had labor stopped from being at risk. You are at risk of possibly going into labor before the 37 Weeks. You and your little one will be monitored closely, and known as high risk, you may also be put on bed rest. Mothers that are having two or more babies automatically become a high risk
“In the united states 3 percent of all births are multiples, yet almost 20 percent of premature babies are multiples.” (Gunther 23) with multiplies every risk with a preemie is increased and problems make themselves aware sooner in the pregnancy. Although babies that are premature can survive and have an even higher survival rate if they are late premature, it’s not a highly recommended because preterm labor is one of the number one leading causes of long-term effects such as infant death, physical, and mental disability.
One of the most common risk factors of a premature infants is infant death. The very first thing a doctor or midwives have to consider is the survival rate of the infant that is born to early. Survival rate is considered first because a baby that is born too soon opposed to one that stay’s protected inside the mother womb until full term growth and development are highly affected because it has a negative effect on almost all the infant’s organ systems. The baby birth weight will decrease drastically as well as their growth.
The earlier the gestational age which is the age calculated by your last period or an 8 to 13-week ultra sound, the less chances of survival for the preemie. According to table 1 in the Preemie Primer “at 22 weeks has less than a 20% chance of survival and very few of these babies make it, 23 weeks, only 8 -33%, 24 weeks, 26-60%, 26 Weeks, 85% and 27 – 36 weeks, survival rate increase past 90% chance of the preemie surviving. (Gunter 7).
For the preemies that do survive they still risk the chance of developing slower than a baby that is born after thirty-seven weeks. Preemies depending on their condition after birth stay in the hospital in the (NICU) Nursery Intensive Care Unit so that they can be monitored on their growth and development, they are often not allowed to leave the NICU unless they have reached at least 4 to 5 pounds and have reached the length that they can ride safely in their car seat. They are also cleared after a doctor think that their condition is stable enough. Infants that are preterm still are at risk long term issues such as physical and mental disabilities trough out their life as well. The lack of growth and development takes a toll on their lungs, brain, and other functioning organs. As well as their mental development and motor skills they often learn slower than babies that were allowed to reach their full term.
Preemies that survive are still at risk for many lifelong physical disabilities. Moms can also be at risk of giving birth to a preemie her next pregnancy since she’s already had a one at preterm. Mom becomes more at risk for early term labor. It is common for preemies to develop long term disabilities over time. They can develop problems with their lungs in which leads to conditions such as Asthma, BDP which is Bronchopulmonary dysplasia which is some chronic lung dieses that cause the lungs to be inflamed. Their immune system leaves them more vulnerable to RSVP, A common flu, and also other cold’s, and Phenomenon. Preemies can have digestion problems like necrotizing enterocolitis which can cause blockage and loss of nutrition.
A preemie is more likely to also develop issues with their vison, a common issue know as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) “About 14,000 to 16,000 babies in the United States have ROP. Most babies with ROP have a mild case and don’t need treatment. But babies with severe ROP can have vision problems or blindness, 400 out of 600 babies have ROP (National Institutes of Health) Hearing loss is also a common factor, along with dental problems. Infant’s teeth are more commonly to suffer develop slowly, growing in crocked, and also having discoloration to them.
Physical disabilities are not only a factor, but preemies are also subjected to long term mental disabilities. A preemie brain is more likely to get effected opposed to a baby that was born at or after full term. Babies who were born prematurely are at greater risk of developing Neurological disorders like cerebral palsy that affects the spinal cord, brain and nervous system. “Cerebral palsy was present in 14% of the survivors from this group. There is some evidence that the incidence of cerebral palsy is falling in premature babies born between 28-31 weeks.” (WHO)
Autism is most likely in early term birth as well. In fact, “IQ scores are nearly 1 SD (15 points) below the population, more than half of these children require special assistance in school, and nearly 20% repeat a grade in school by age 8.” (Peterson 1) A preemie also is known to develop behavior issues such as ADHD, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADD,
Attention Deficit Disorder, and anxiety, and depression. “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is one of the most common mental health disorders in children, affecting 3-10% of school-age children (between 2 to 5.4 million children aged 4-17. (O’Brien 1)
Severe prematurity-being born between 23 and 28 weeks-was found to put an infant at the greatest risk for later developing ADHD. But even mild prematurity–being born in weeks 37 or 38–was found to result in an elevated risk. (O’Brien 1)
Preemies can survive and go on to live a normal life as long as they are well monitored and taken care of. With just the right amount of love and care from the parents of a premature infant it can play a giant role into a preemies healthy recovery. Along with the help of a skilled Neonatal team because we know have access to more equipment, medicine, and have a long chain of health professionals, studies, and researchers to accommodate a better chance for survival and a decrease in disabilities that could affect them long term. Even if an infant develops these long term behaviors and physical disabilities there are doctors, even specific doctors such as pediatricians and midwives, and pediatric nurse that specialize just in infants and children.
Also, ongoing amounts of cures, and treatments that can help them in the long run.
However, to conclude our thoughts on preterm labor mothers should take any advice to avoid giving birth before the 37-week mark by following their doctors, gynecologist, and midwife’s orders. They should allow doctors to do what they need to stop preterm labor. Mothers should also educate themselves on how to avoid preterm labor, the health risk for herself and babies, and how often these babies’ that are born to small can no make it to even their first birthday. Also, mothers should not due drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke during pregnancy for this cuts down a lot on the risk of a preterm infant.
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