By: Poelano Malema
Children who are born more than three weeks earlier than their expected due date are called premature babies.
Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide, reports the World Health Organization.
Dr Salome Lelaka , a pediatrician at Life Carstehof Hospital in Midrand , answers crucial questions about premature births and how to take care of babies who are born prematurely.
What can lead to premature birth?
The cause of prematurity includes conditions that affect the mother for example high blood pressure in pregnancy fetus, multiple pregnancy or the conditions in the womb-like infection often referred as Chorioamnionitis.
How does being born premature affect the overall health of the infant?
Premature babies suffer a lot of complications which can be immediate, intermediate, and long-term. Immediate can be mortality and those that make it will require breathing support because of undeveloped lungs.
Intermediate problems are general. They [ babies] have undeveloped or immature organs and that causes them to be admitted for a long duration in newborn Intensive care unit and that can be associated with various complications.
Long term challenges are that some may have developmental delays depending on the morbidity and complications that they may have come across.
Can stress cause premature birth?
Stress has shown even in studies that it generally increases your Blood pressure and anxiety level as a result that may affect your blood pressure levels during pregnancy and subsequent premature delivery
Are women who are pregnant with multiple babies more at risk?
Yes, most definitely. The more the number of foetuses, the higher the risk. The risks include twin to twin transfusion, miscarriage, abnormal amount of amniotic fluid etc.
In what ways can pregnant women better their chances of carrying full term?
Is highly recommended that every pregnant lady must go for their antenatal classes and those that have high risk to even consult early in pregnancy, if not before they fall pregnant, with their respective Gynaecologists.
Eat a balance diet, don’t drink or smoke. Avoid recreational drugs. Adhere to your chronic medication.
What tips can you share for new moms taking the preemies home?
To enjoy the baby but bearing in mind that baby still premature.
The culture of over feeding is discouraging because the baby’s intestines are still not fully matured.
Parents should be on a look out for the baby breathing patterns. Some may still “forget” to breath and may require some stimulation.
A preventative injection is available to protect the infants from an RSV. All premature babies born under 32 weeks and had required oxygen needs to receive the injection if not given already during the hospital stay.
Travelling is not recommended especially during extreme weather conditions.
To consult their doctor or health provider even with minor symptoms.
Not to use traditional muti [medication] for ingestion or as an enema.
Not to rely entirely on Google as the only source of information.
Most importantly to attend the follow up appointments and to immunise the baby according to the schedule.
Image courtesy of Pexels/ @William Fortunato