While apnea of prematurity usually resolves itself on its own around the time your premature baby has matured enough to equal the age of a full-term baby at birth. Apnea of prematurity is fairly common. Once it stops though it does not come back. While it's happening it is very frightening.
Apnea is a pause in breathing that has one or more of the following characteristics:
Bradycardia is a slowing of the heart rate, usually to less than 80 beats per minute for a premature baby. Bradycardia often follows apnea or periods of very shallow breathing. Sometimes it is due to a reflex, especially with the placing of a feeding tube or when the baby is trying to have a stool.
While apnea of prematurity is the most common cause of apnea in premature babies it's not the only cause. It can be caused by many problems including low blood sugar, infection, seizures, patent ductus atreiosus, brain injury, high or low body temperature, or insufficient oxygen.
Premature babies have immature respiratory centers in the brain. Preemies normally have bursts of big breaths followed by periods of shallow breathing or pauses. Apnea is most common when the baby is sleeping.
Your baby may be treated with one or more of the following:
Your baby's respiration will be monitored constantly if s/he is at risk for apnea. An alarm will sound if there is no breath for a set number of seconds.
Most premature babies are over their apnea, when the come home from the hospital; however some babies reach all other criteria for discharge before the apnea is completely gone. Sometimes babies are candidates for home apnea monitoring if:
Once your baby matures and the apnea resolves, it will not return. If a baby should have breathing pauses after apnea goes away, it is not apnea of prematurity. It is due to some other problem and needs to be discussed with your baby's physician. This is not common.
No. For the most part babies who die of SIDS are born at term and have normal newborn stays. Babies who have needed newborn intensive care for any reason are at a slightly higher risk of SIDS than other babies. Apnea of prematurity does not determine this risk.
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