World Prematurity Day!

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World Prematurity Day!

November 10, 2016

Every year in Canada, approximately 1 in 12 (or 27,000) babies are born premature. Advances in medical science have enabled younger and smaller babies to survive, which has created the need for even smaller preemie diapers that are also specially designed to meet their unique needs. This is why Pampers has partnered with Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses to design and introduce a size three times smaller than newborn diapers to fit the tiniest and most vulnerable premature babies.

These new Pampers Preemie Size P-3 diapers (available exclusively at hospitals) offer a small touch of love to premature babies born in the second trimester and weighing as little as 1 pound (500 grams). They are designed to minimize sleep disruption, enable proper positioning, and aid in medical care for premature infants. To spread the message of love and care around World Prematurity Day, Pampers developed a heartwarming video Touchesoflove to celebrate the births of tiniest and most vulnerable premature babies.

“I would like to write a few lines on premature babies. Preemies, as they are called, are babies that are born before 37 weeks gestational age. There are many reasons for a baby to be born premature, reasons such as drug or alcohol use can be stopped and help the mother carry the fetus to term, and others such as genetics, twins, or congenital problems are things the mother can do nothing to prevent the premature birth.

Getting ready for a birth is exciting, and scary, and fulfilling. Having a preemie come early, especially if it is unexpected or emergent, can be very stressful on the healthcare providers, parents, and the baby. If the parents are first time parents the premature infant is especially scary, they may not be prepared, they will have many questions, and depending on how early the baby is, can have life threatening consequences for the baby, and mother.

A fetus needs time to develop properly, 40 weeks is the normal gestational age of a fetus to be term usually the baby is of a “normal” birthweight, will generally have no problems adapting to life outside the womb, and is generally healthy and strong. Barring any unforeseen problems, a term baby is usually not much of a problem for the delivery team, and the mother. The term baby will usually thrive immediately.

The preterm baby, however, may have a plethora of health problems. Premature lungs may have problems because they are not formed properly and lack the surfactant that is needed to help them inflate correctly. Heart problems, feeding issues, weight gain are just a few of the concerns the health team will have with your premature infant. A neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a busy, intimidating place, full of concerned parents, and busy nurses and doctors.

Finding out you are pregnant is exciting, not just for first time parents but for all parents. Due dates set, plans made, rooms refurbished, and excitement building to that day when your family grows. Some things to remember that you as an expectant mother can do to lower the risk of premature birth are: Stay away from Alcohol. Not a drop. Serious birth defects, FAS, and premature births are among the risks of drinking during pregnancy. Stop Smoking. Smoking also increases the risk of birth defects as well as premature birth. Illicit drugs such as narcotics, cocaine, meth, crack etc. These street drugs will have a bad effect on your baby. Birth defects, addiction, premature birth rates, fetal demise, are only a few of the problems that are associated with use of illicit drugs during pregnancy.

As your due date approaches you and your partner are excited to see the growth, and development of the fetus. Your baby is growing, you can feel it move, you can see it on ultrasound you will pick a name, plan to meet him/her in the coming months. When your baby is a preemie though, stress levels rise, and your concern for the baby is obviously higher than if you carry them to term.

What is the survival outlook for a preemie baby? There is a lot of controversy over what week the baby is viable for life outside the womb. 25 -26 weeks is generally thought of to be the minimum amount of preterm that a baby can survive outside the womb.

25-28 weeks:  26 weeks is usually the limit of survival of a preemie after birth. These preemies have poor lung development, and will need assistance to help them breath. A breathing tube will probably be placed into the baby’s trachea to help them breath, or perhaps a tracheotomy will be performed. These babies will not be able to suck and will probably have a feeding tube placed as well for their feeding. The 26 week infant may have heart problems so the baby will be placed on a heart monitor and will live in an isolette for many weeks and be in an NICU until he/she is healthy enough to go home. Lifelong complications such as breathing problems or learning problems have been reported with the very early preemie babies. Approximately 1% of babies born in the USA are born before 28 weeks.

Baby born at 25-26 weeks

Baby born at 25-26 weeks

28-31 weeks: These babies are generally bigger, can grasp fingers, some can breast feed, and most will have to be mechanically ventilated or have oxygen therapy and will spend some time in the isolette and in the NICU as well. These babies have a much higher chance of survival outside the womb and 96% will survive to the first year, as opposed to 80% for earlier than 28 week babies. The severity of the complications of these babies is less, and they will respond better to treatments that the really early preemies.

Baby born at 28 weeks

Baby born at 28 weeks

31-33 weeks: These babies have a 98% survival rate. Most can feed or breathe on their own and may only need supplemental oxygen to thrive. Perhaps some intense care one on one for a couple of weeks and they are ready to go home. Birth weights for these babies can be upwards of normal, and they may not need an NICU for a very long time.

Baby born at 32 weeks

Baby born at 32 weeks

32-36 weeks: Late preemies have survival rate the same as term infants, and generally have minor problems associated with preterm birth. Some of these late preterm infants will have problems feeding or some oxygen therapy, but mostly these babies will do just as well as a full term baby.

Baby born at 36 weeks

Baby born at 36 weeks

The most important thing to remember if you are facing a preterm birth is that there are excellent NICUs in Alberta highly skilled, well trained people who know exactly what to do in the event of a preterm birth, and will fight for your infant. The Lois Hole Hospital for women is a top notch hospital in Edmonton. They deal with preemies all the time. The Stollery Hospital at the U of A, is also a great hospital. My preemie son spent some of his life there, and they give excellent care. The Alberta Children’s hospital in Calgary is another great place for preemie babies. My son spent the remainder of his life there receiving the best care they could give. Sadly his congenital heart issues took his life.

Having a preemie baby is a challenge that your family may have to face. Sometimes there is nothing you as a mother can do to prevent a premature birth. Babies after all, come whenever they please, not by our rigid standards. If you are among those mothers that have a high risk lifestyle, change that lifestyle for the sake of your baby and for the sake of your health.

There are literally thousands of fantastic resources online to answer your preemie questions, support groups for families who have lost a preemie, or had a stillborn preemie. Utilize those resources and perhaps the stress of having a premature birth may be alleviated just a little.

Good luck, and enjoy that preemie, they are a special group, and will only stay so tiny for a very short period of time.”

Roger S. Tewson, EMT-P
Shift supervisor, Guardian Ambulance
Vice President Alberta Paramedic Association.

 

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