Exclusive: World Prematurity Day – How to take care of premature babies; complications, steps to follow

On November 17, World Prematurity Day is observed every year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. Zee News Digital spoke to Dr Vrushali Bichkar, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Lullanagar, Pune, about preterm labour, health complications, if any, in premature babies and how to take care and ensure that they grow up to be healthy adults.

What is preterm labour?

Preterm birth means a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It’s when one’s body prepares for birth too early in your pregnancy. Currently, the number of preterm births is on the rise and this has become worrisome for the experts.

Also read: HIGH Blood sugar: No maida, regular exercise – 10 daily habits to control Type 2 diabetes

What are the health issues that premature babies face?

A premature may encounter sudden breathing problems due to respiratory distress syndrome as the lungs fail to expand and contract normally. The baby can also suffer from bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Heart problems are also rampant in premature babies. Heart defects, heart murmurs, and heart failure are some of the complications seen in babies. Low blood pressure is also a bothersome issue in babies. Preterm babies have higher chances of bleeding in the brain, known as an intraventricular hemorrhage. Most hemorrhages are mild and get solved with little short-term impact. But some babies can also have a permanent brain injury. The babies may also have (hypothermia) causing breathing problems and low blood sugar levels. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is also a gastrointestinal issue seen in babies. Moreover, newborn anemia jaundice, abnormally low levels of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), sepsis, allergies, infections, colds, coughs, and flu can also give a tough time to babies. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), hearing loss, psychological problems, vision problems, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia will need immediate attention.

How to take care of premature babies?

A premature baby will have to be managed appropriately in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Try to breastfeed the baby as suggested by the doctor. If you are taking the baby home then limit visitors at home to eliminate the risk of infections. Practice Kangaroo Care to strengthen the bond with your baby. Make sure that the baby is gaining weight steadily, is able to breathe properly, and maintains a recommended body temperature. It will be imperative to monitor the newborn’s vitals to know the status of his/her health daily. Follow guidelines given by the doctor only. Do not self-medicate. Once the baby grows older try to introduce him/her to foods such as apple puree, mashed carrot or potato, smoothies, and fruits. Do not give him/her nuts, popcorn, or candies that can choke him/her.

Do premature babies show symptoms growing up?

The babies will exhibit symptoms such as breathing problems, lack of sleep, aggressive behavior, developmental delays, inability to communicate, tiredness, fast heartbeat, lack of interest in daily activities, aggressiveness, headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, and chills. These symptoms will indicate that there is some problem with your baby. Remember, do not delay the treatment once you notice the symptoms.

Any other points to keep in mind?

Know that the risk factors for preterm labor in pregnant women are urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaginal infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, placental abruption, and having prior cervix surgeries. So, pregnant women should take utmost care of their health.


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