New parents have a lot to fret about but worries build to an overwhelming level for mums and dads whose babies were born prematurely. In fact, premature birth is one of the leading causes of death in newborns and one in every eight babies is born prematurely. Little is known about the causes of premature birth and for the most part, doctors do not know how to prevent it. While birth weight and short gestational age seem to correlate with infant development, each premature baby develops at its own pace. Here is a low-down on their characteristics.
Full-Term Vs. Premature Infant Development
While a full-term baby is born after 40 weeks of gestation, a premature baby is born less than 37 weeks into gestation. As opposed to a full-term baby who is healthy enough to go home after a night or two in the maternity ward, a premature baby is usually kept in the neonatal intensive care unit. Developmentally, if a baby is born premature, they might have developmental problems or reach milestones later than full-term babies do. Premature Babies Less Likely To Have Romantic or Sexual Relations in Adulthood, Says New Study.
Infants are generally unable to coordinate swallowing and sucking before 34 weeks of gestation. Babies who are unable to breathe, suck or swallow simultaneously, require the insertion of a nasogastric feeding tube for nutritional support. Preterm babies are also more likely to have jaundice after birth as compared to full-term babies. Jaundice may eventually result in brain damage due to the build-up of bilirubin in the baby's bloodstream. Besides, preterm babies are more likely to have anaemia.
A premature baby is more likely to have breathing problems than a full-term infant. Due to the underdeveloped lungs, babies with severe respiratory developmental issues need assistance breathing. Another developmental challenge that preemies face and full-term babies do not face is trouble regulating body temperature. Woman Gives Birth to Premature Quintuplets in Jaipur; Here's All About Rare Case of Multiple Births in Humans.
A premature baby's motor skills like crawling or holding their head up usually come slower than a full-term child. Unlike full-term babies who keep their arms and legs flexed, premature babies tend to hold their arms and legs straight. Since preemies do not spend sufficient time being tightly folded inside their mother, they have a difficult time flexing their underdeveloped muscles. Premature Baby: How Fathers Play an Important Role in Caring for Both Baby and Mom.
Over time, the characteristics of a preterm baby become less noticeable. With advancements in medicine and technology, premature babies now have a better chance at overcoming the obstacles they face from the shortened stay in the womb.