Babies born before the 37th week of gestation are considered to be born prematurely. Premature newborns are sometimes given the nickname "preemies." Mothers who have their baby prematurely are often scared and nervous. It is true that premature newborns face an increased chance of having one or more complications. The risk of complications increases the earlier the baby is born. Any complications that a premature newborn experiences will be cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Below is a list of the most common complications that a premature newborn may face.
Immature Lungs -- On average most babies have mature lungs by 36 weeks of gestation. However, this may not be true for all babies since every baby develops at a different rate. If a mother and her doctor know that she may be delivering early, an amniocentesis may be performed to check the maturity level of the lungs. In some cases, an injection of steroids can be given to the baby before delivery occurs. This can help speed up the development of the lungs. The biggest concern when it comes to premature labor is the development of the newborn's lungs. Here are a few complications that can occur with immature lungs:
Pneumonia -- Due to all of the complications with premature-related respiratory problems, pneumonia can occur. Pneumonia is an infection in the area of the lung involved in the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen and causes inflammation which reduces the amount of space available for the exchange of air. This results in inadequate amounts of oxygen to the body. Treatment involves antibiotics as well as the possibility of supplemental oxygen and intubation. If this is left untreated, it can evolve into a deadly infection or lead to sepsis or meningitis.
Apnea and Bradycardia -- Apnea is the absence of breathing. In the NICU an alarm will sound if your newborn has an irregular breathing pattern which consists of intervals of pauses longer than 10-15 seconds. Bradycardia is the reduction of heart rate. In the NICU an alarm will sound if your newborn's heart rate falls below 100 beats per minute. Usually a little tap or simple rub on the back helps remind the preemie to breath or brings the heart rate up.
Infection -- A premature baby may not be ready to fight off certain infections and for his own protection he is placed in an incubator to provide protection against potential infections.
Jaundice -- A yellowish skin color caused by the buildup of substances in the blood called bilirubin. Treatment involves being placed under a bilirubin light called phototherapy. This may last about a week to 10 days.