What can I expect if my Baby is Born Premature?

Premature Baby
At 27 weeks pregnant I gave birth to my 2 pound, 3 ounce baby girl. The experience was nothing short of nerve racking since my husband and I didn't know if she would survive, have birth defects or other health issues. Immediately after giving birth to my daughter, the nurses whisked her away to give her oxygen and was then taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

For 2 months my daughter had round-the-clock care from the exceptional NICU nurses. The NICU was a very intimidating place with all the various machines that made all sorts of noises. For those parents expecting a preemie, the following are some of the machines you will find in the NICU:

IV's used to provide your baby with fluids and other drugs your baby may need.
Bili lights and biliblankets Preemies tend to develop jaundice and the bililights help their bilirubin levels return to normal.
Heating beds flat, open beds used for younger babies who need a controlled environment.
Isolettes also called an incubator is a plastic shell with a small bed inside and holes for wires and tubes. It also helps to regulate your baby's temperature.
Monitors NICU monitors monitor pulse, respirations, temperature and blood pressure. A pulse oximeter may be used to tell how oxygenated your baby's blood is.
Oxygen tanks a long, clear plastic tube with 2 prongs that are inserted into the baby's nose to keep oxygen saturation levels normal.
Ventilator Aids your baby in breathing.
High Frequency Oscillator (HFO) used for babies with fragile lungs by pressurizing the lungs then shaking small amounts of air into them.
High Frequency Jet Ventilator pushes air into the lungs at controlled and frequent levels.
Continuous Position Airway Press (CPAP) Machine helps your baby breathe better with a constant pressure of air and oxygen.
Oxy hood a plastic hood placed over your baby's head to provide a controlled oxygen level.
Nasogastric (NG) tube a tube inserted into the baby's mouth or nose and carries food to the stomach.

In my experience, I remember these machines being very intimidating at first but after time they became just a normal part of our visits at the NICU. During my daughter's 2-month stay in the NICU we were very fortunate that she did not suffer any major health issues. Our daughter's main goals were to eat, sleep and grow. Before we knew it the day we had anticipated for 2 months had come bringing our daughter home. Before a preemie is allowed to be discharged from the NICU there are specific criteria that must be met.

Breathe without oxygen
Outgrow Apnea and Bradycardia which is related to the babys heart rate and breathing patterns. Those babies who have not overcome apnea and bradycardia may be sent home with an apnea monitor.
Take all feedings by mouth
Maintain a stable temperature

Our daughter was still experiencing apnea and bradycardia before she left the NICU, so she was sent home with an apnea monitor. A home apnea monitor is a portable machine used to monitor a babys heartbeat and breathing after coming home from the hospital. It is placed on the baby by Stick-on patches (electrodes) or a belt will be attached to the baby's chest or stomach.

Once you have your preemie home it is vital to take preventative measures to keep them healthy. Wash your hands often to remove germs and ask about the RSV vaccine. Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV) can be detrimental for premature infants. Get your flu shot. Avoid large crowds and don't smoke.

Another concern parents of a preemie may have is if their baby is reaching milestones on time. It is important to remember to adjust your baby's age to try and get an accurate sense of where your baby should be in terms of milestone. One issue we had with our daughter was a delay in speech. To help her along, we found a program that works with children born premature and provides services such as speech therapy.

A leading advocate to prevent premature birth is The March of Dimes who has taken an active role to raise public awareness and decrease the rate or preterm birth in the U.S. The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign aims to meet several goals. The campaign funds research to discover causes of premature birth. Educate women about risk-reduction strategies. Provides information and emotional support. Advocates to expand health care coverage and Works with health care providers. For additional information about the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, visit www.marchofdimes.com

Written by : Kelly Adams Dennis, United States(USA)

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice