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Welcome, medical contents search April 26, 2013
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Preterm Baby

more about Preterm Baby

Preemie, prematurity

  • A baby born before the 37th week of gestation (pregnancy).
  • Ordinarily, a human pregnancy lasts an average of 40 weeks, by which time the infant is fully developed.
  • Premature infants are more likely to be girls than to be boys.
  • The premature infant is often less than 5 pounds 8 ounces.  Premature infants of diabetic mothers, though, are usually larger than this (perhaps the high blood sugar in the mother stimulates fetal growth).
  • Premature infants often have very little body fat and have decreased muscle strength, muscle bulk, and muscle tone.

  • Numerous symptoms may develop, due to birth prior to the completion of development

  • Usually, the cause is unknown.
  • Maternal toxemia or preeclampsia (a particular set of circumstances centering around hypertension in the mother)
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets)
  • Maternal street drugs, and possibly smoking
  • Incompetent cervix (the cervix does not stay closed, and so the fetus is not retained in the uterus for the full 40 weeks)
  • Maternal history of previous premature labor

  • Physical characteristics of the baby are used to define the number of weeks of gestation (i.e., the number of weeks that the pregnancy probably lasted)
  • The amount of creasing on the soles of the baby's feet, the genital development, and other characteristics give a fairly accurate measurement of the number of weeks of gestation.
  • The maternal dates (date of last normal menstrual period; estimated delivery date) give a fairly accurate measurement.

  • Treatment prior to birth:
    1. The mother likely to deliver a premature infant might be given steroids prior to delivery, to reduce the likelihood of hyaline membrane disease (a type of lung disease in premature infants).
    2. The steroids cause the infant to produce more surfactant, which is a lung product necessary for proper lung function.
    3. Special obstetrical care might be given the mother, to halt premature labor (in an attempt to avoid delivery of a premature infant).
  • Treatment after birth: premature infants often need observation in the special care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit, because of anticipated complications.

  • Temperature instability
  • Apneic spells (a tendency to stop breathing)
  • Hyaline membrane disease due to immaturity of the lungs (also called respiratory distress syndrome)
  • A need for supplemental oxygen, and sometimes a need to be placed on a respirator
  • Susceptibility to jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia)
  • Susceptibility to Sepsis (bacterial infection in the bloodstream) and other infectious diseases
  • Need for special formula, for varied reasons: intolerance to milk protein in ordinary infant formulas; intolerance to the high number of particles dissolved in ordinary formulas; a need for a higher caloric content than found in ordinary formula, in order to gain weight.
  • Need for remaining in the hospital nursery longer than other babies, in order to gain weight
  • Developmental delay
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity
  • A tendency to have birth defects

  • Consult with your physician during your pregnancy, about ways to minimize the chance of premature labor.  If you are likely to deliver a premature infant, consult with your physician to decide the best place for your labor and delivery.
  • Sometimes, physicians want the mother to deliver at a hospital that has an intensive care nursery (especially if the baby will be quite premature) rather than transporting the premature infant to another hospital after delivery.
  • If the mother delivers a premature infant, discuss the possible complications with your physician, the likely need for the infant to remain longer in the nursery, and any special care that will be needed once you are home.

  • Low birthweight infants, from any cause (for example, post maturity)

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