Preparing for a Preemie
It is inevitable that some women are going to give birth to premature infants, and understanding preemies will make the process much easier. A premature baby is defined as an infant that is born three or more weeks before their due date.
So why do preemies occur? Many reasons, but here are a few:
- Premature delivery due to danger to mother or infant's health
- Delivery of multiples (twins, triplets, etc)
- Onset of early labor that cannot be stopped with medication
- Trauma to baby or mother
- Pregnancy condition, such as placenta previa (placenta blocking cervix) or preeclampsia (high blood pressure), that results in early labor
The key to remember if you are at risk of having a preemie is that although there are possible complications that arise, medical advancements have lead to a staggering increase in the survival rate of premature infants. So, while your little bundle of joy may arrive a few weeks earlier than planned, there is likely nothing to worry about.
The main issue that many preemies have is that they are unable to breathe on their own when first born. A fetus' lungs usually develop between 35 and 36 weeks; so a baby born before that time may not have mature lungs. If there is time, doctors will administer a steroid that will help speed up the maturing of the lungs, but it is likely that your baby may have to be placed on a ventilator for a short while.
Another common preemie problem is that they generally do not have the ability to feed when they are first born. This is because they haven't developed those all important muscles that are used for feeding and sucking. If this is the case, your baby may be kept in the natal unit until they can feed on their own. In the meantime, you can start pumping, and your breast milk can be given to your baby thru a feeding tube.
While you may be tempted to panic when you realize that you are having a preemie, try to relax. Giving birth to a preemie is something that happens to many mothers, and you will not love your little one any less for it.