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Premature Babies arrive before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy. This pregnancy website guide lists the causes and effects of preterm birth.
Preterm birth is on the rise, these are babies who have been born too soon. Some mothers have elected for voluntary caesarean section which is normally carried out at least 2 weeks before full term. Always try to delay the birth as much as possible until after 37 weeks.
Low birth weight babies
In general, any baby weighing less than 2kg at birth is probably smaller than he should be and may need special care. About two-thirds of low birth weight babies are due to premature birth, and a third are small-for-dates babies.
Did you know that the foetus gains about 0.5kg every 2 weeks towards the end of the pregnancy? The prime indicator at birth of long-term health is birth weight. The baby should not be too heavy nor too light. The smartest kid I ever saw (At 5 months, she was crawling at fast speed, she could say 'zebra' in chinese at 10 months and sing the song 'Kookaburra' at 12 months) was a 2 week overstayer.
The preemie baby being born prematurely may be spontaneous (rupture of membranes leading to onset of labour) or planned (induced labour or caesarian birth when mother or child is in danger).
Causes of Preterm Birth
Effects on Premature babies
The pace of an unborn baby's development is geared to his being born at full term (40 weeks). If for any reason, he is born before 37 weeks, he may not yet be ready for life in the outside world. Health risks that a preemie baby may face include common ones such as jaundice, difficulty regulating his body temperature and feeding. He may also be more susceptible to infection or have a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia). He will need iron and calcium supplements to remedy a lack of these essential minerals.
Because their brains and other internal organs are not fully developed, premature babies who survive may face a lifetime of disability.
Preterm children may have problems with cognitive processes such as problem solving, visual memory, planning and multi-tasking. Severe disorders can include motor impairment and cerebral palsy.
Increased hypermetropia and myopia (long and short sightedness)
Increased blood pressure and asthma rates, poorer lung function
Reduced exercise tolerance
Prone to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression
Stages of Prematurity
Babies born before 22 weeks have less chance of surviving as their vital organs are not developed enough.
Babies born less than 28 weeks are extremely preterm.
Babies born between 28 and less than 32 weeks are considered very preterm.
Babies born between 32 and less than 37 weeks are moderate to late preterm. 84% of all preterm births occur at 32 and 36 weeks, and most can survive with enough care.
37 to 42 weeks is considered full term. Whew!
It is more common for boys to be born prematurely than girls, 55% boys to 45% girls.
How to help your premature baby
Here are some suggestions on what you and your partner can do to help your premature baby thrive.
The youngest survivor recorded is Amillia Taylor, born in 2006 in Florida at 21 weeks and 6 days. She was 23cm long and weighed only 283g, less than a can of Coke.
Famous early babies include :
2009 University of Melbourne : To treat the problem of preterm babies having a higher risk of cerebral palsy, Magnesium sulphate was given to women at risk of preterm birth to protect the brain of the foetus. This improves blood flow and prevents damage to cells. Further research is needed to reduce side effects such as flushing, nausea and vomiting in mothers.
2009 University of Adelaide : To treat the problem of preterm babies lacking a major lipid in the brain - the omega 3 fatty acid called Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), high doses of fatty acids in the form of tuna oil capsules were given to lactating mothers with premature babies. This aids mental development.
2011 Wayne State University : Women at high risk of preterm birth have shorter cervixes and may be deficient in progesterone, a natural hormone that sustains pregnancies. Preterm birth rates can be halved by treating the women with progesterone in a low-cost gel form.
2012 Trinity College Dublin : Problem - Mothers who deliver their babies early have higher levels of their baby's DNA in their blood. A protein in her immune system detects the DNA as foreign, causing an inflammatory reaction that leads to early delivery. It was found that the reaction can be blocked by drugs such as chloroquin.
The information provided is based partially on the World Health Organization's first global report on Preterm births.
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