A full-term pregnancy lasts somewhere between 39 and 40 weeks. However, some babies arrive much earlier, which leads to insufficient development of their organs. Across 184 countries, the preterm birth rate ranges from 5% to 18% of all births. In India, 27 million babies are born annually, of which 3.6 million are premature births, according to data shared by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The country has also registered the highest number (25%) of preterm deaths worldwide, highlighting the need for parental awareness and skilled treatment. Take a look at the common health complications experienced by premature babies and their long-term impacts.
About 80% of all premature neonates suffer from yellow skin and eye discoloration. This is caused by excessive bilirubin formation in the blood, which the body fails to flush out. The good news, however, is that this condition can be easily diagnosed, ensuring early treatment and prevention of dangerous complications like kernicterus.
Respiratory Disease Syndrome (RDS)
A few of the major causes of premature birth are gestational diabetes, maternal infections and multiple pregnancies. These conditions often lead to the baby being born in just 26 to 28 weeks. About 50% of these infants suffer from respiratory disease syndrome, since the lungs have not developed fully and are therefore inelastic. This, in turn, causes troubled breathing and flared nostrils. Caring for a premature baby with this condition includes providing extra oxygen and using pressure devices to help the infant breathe.
Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)
The blood vessels in the brain of premature babies are extremely delicate and tiny. Changes in oxygen and blood flow can tear the underdeveloped vessels. If the child is born weighing less than 1,000 grams, there is a high risk of this condition developing. However, 90% of the cases recover, without any long-term complications, such as vision or hearing disabilities. The basic signs of IVH are decreased activity, anemia and apnea. Therefore, keep a check at these premature birth symptoms to ensure immediate care.
The normal iron level in a newborn is supposed to be 17-22 grams per deciliter, with 55%-68% hematocrit. If it is lower than this, the child is likely to suffer from anemia. The placenta is responsible for providing sufficient iron to the fetus. However, birthing when the baby is born before time, this process remains incomplete. Feeding breast milk can help manage the condition, since high lactose levels aid in 50%-70% iron absorption.
Other Physical Conditions
Certain major issues, such as hearing or dental problems can also occur in some children, impacting premature baby development. At a later stage, some children might suffer from autism, cerebral palsy, weakened immune system, or psychological issues like anxiety.
However, advancements in medical science, such as excellent Neonatal Intensive Care Units, help a newborn overcome most of these challenges. With constant care from parents, caregivers and health professionals, premature babies are able to live a long and healthy life.