According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely in the United States. Babies are considered premature if born before 37 weeks gestation, but many premature babies are born much earlier than 36 weeks and often require special care during and after delivery. Kidshealth.org shares that premature birth occurs more frequently with women under 19 and over 40.
Prematurity at a Glance
When a baby is born early, its organs may not have developed fully. Even premature babies who aren’t born with problems will require the assistance of medical care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In a NICU, teams of medical specialists, including neonatologists, perinatologists, nurses, therapists, and other health care specialists provide special care for premature babies. Premature babies often need assistance regulating heat, breathing, and eating. In the NICU, doctors have special equipment to help babies survive and monitor them very closely around the clock.
Staying warm is very important to new babies. In the NICU, babies rest in special beds called incubators, with equipment that helps keep them warm, quiet and safe from germs. Many premature babies also receive therapy from special lights to combat jaundice. Depending on the status of a baby's lungs at birth, he or she may require respiratory assistance. AmericanPregancy.org describes four types of respiratory assistance for newborns: Endotracheal tube, ventilator, continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP) and an oxygen hood. These devices may look intimidating next to a tiny baby, but they’re lifesaving tools that help premature babies survive.
Most premature babies are not developed enough to bottle or breast feed. According to KidsHealth.org, premature babies grow at a very rapid rate, and because they have underdeveloped digestive systems, need special nutritional assistance as well as assistance eating. Premature babies may be fed via IV or through tiny tubes through the nose or mouth. Mothers who are able to pump breast milk often pump milk to feed the baby, while other babies receive formula fortified especially for premature babies.
Some premature babies have problems with the eyes, lungs, heart, skin or other organs and require surgeries and special treatments at birth. Depending on pre-existing conditions, the mother’s health, the delivery and the gestational age, these issues can vary in severity. NICU staff are especially equipped to deal with these health issues, as well as the special needs of parents who often find life turned upside down by the round the clock care required by a premature infant.
Here at Medical Center of Lewisville, our Level III NICU is equipped to care for premature and critically ill infants. To find out more about Medical Center of Lewisville or our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit capabilities, visit us online or give us a call at 972-420-1089.