Premature Babies Week By Week
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Preemies develop at different rates than full-term babies. Learning what to expect from premature babies week by week can help you better understand their developmental process.
Transcript: If a baby's born early, what are the chances that this child will survive and thrive? A normal, full-term...
If a baby's born early, what are the chances that this child will survive and thrive? A normal, full-term baby is born after about 40 weeks in the womb and a premature baby, or preemie, is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. About 12 - 13% of all babies born in the United States are premature, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 1% of these preemies are born BEFORE the 28th week of pregnancy. Usually weighing less than two pounds, all such tiny infants are put into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU. In many cases, babies of this age have such underdeveloped lungs that they require mechanical assistance to breathe. As such, they may also be unable to cry. And even if they can, it may not be audible through the breathing tube. They also need to be fed intravenously, since they don't know how to suck and swallow. As well, if your baby is born this early, the muscle system may not be fully developed, so movement will be very limited. Expect a baby born this early to sleep most of the day. Sadly, however, these preemies have a high risk of serious medical conditions, like brain hemorrhage or fluid in the lungs. Some 25% go on to have lasting, serious brain disorders as a result. And up to HALF will have milder problems, like behavioral issues and learning disabilities. Babies born before 24 weeks tend not to fare too well, as their systems are generally too undeveloped for life outside the womb. Babies born at 24 weeks or so, have a 46% chance of living past infancy. And at 25 weeks, their chances move up to 50%. Meanwhile, if a baby makes it 28 to 31 weeks in the womb, that child has an over-90% chance of survival. Though he or she will most likely require medical help breathing and eating. While a preemie of this age remains at risk for medical complications, they are often less severe than in babies born earlier. Babies born up to this 31-week point look different than healthy infants. Their skin is wrinkled and reddish, and so thin that you can see the veins underneath. Their face and body is usually covered with downy hair called lanugo. A preemie born in the 32nd or 33rd week of pregnancy often looks more like a full-term infant. They may also be able to breath with only the use of some gentle supplemental oxygen, as opposed to needing a ventilator. Generally babies born in this two-week span are UNLIKELY to have serious disabilities. But they do remain at an increased risk for learning and behavioral problems. The overall survival odds, however, are very good, and are around 95%. Finally, preemies born between 34 and 36-weeks are almost as likely as full-term babies to survive, and are unlikely to develop serious problems though they are still at a SLIGHTLY higher risk for mild learning and behavioral disorders. No matter WHEN your baby is born, though, if born early, don't be afraid to ask questions of the NICU staff. They are there to help!More »
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Premature babies hit their developmental milestones at a different rate than full-term newborns. Our guide to preemie development gives you insight into when your premature infant may crawl, walk, speak, develop certain cognitive skills and more!
Transcript: Your baby was born premature. So, you might be wondering just how quickly will a preemie develop? A...
Your baby was born premature. So, you might be wondering just how quickly will a preemie develop? A baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy is considered to be premature, and is often known as a preemie. About 12 percent of births are premature in the U.S.A. Babies born between weeks 34 and 37 have a greater chance of survival because their organs, their lungs in particular, are developed enough to survive outside of the womb. And While some 90% to 98% of premature babies survive they often hit developmental milestones a bit later than their peers born on schedule. To demonstrate, it helps to know that babies born close to their due date will sit without support around 4 or 7 months. In comparison, a baby born 10 weeks early, at 30 weeks, will sit between 6 and 10 months of age. And will crawl closer to 11 or 12 months instead of crawling around 8 or 9 months, when most full-term babies do. During their eighth to tenth months, full-term babies usually begin to say basic words like "mama," "dada," and "no." Expect your preemie to start speaking around 12 months. In order to see when your baby will hit his or her developmental milestones, you will first need to find your premature baby's "adjusted age." Adjusted age is the age of an infant based on his or her predicted due date. This is different than a baby's chronological age, which is the age of the infant from the day of birth. To find your baby's adjusted age, take your infant's chronological age, then subtract the number of weeks that your baby was premature. For example, if your baby was born 20 weeks ago, and he was eight weeks early, his adjusted age is 12 weeks, or three months. You would therefore want to judge your baby's progress as if he were a THREE month old, despite the fact that he is actually 2 months older than that. As you chart your baby's development, continue to use the adjusted age as long as it feels appropriate, though know that it is considered more useful for tracking the progress of motor skills, than cognitive skills like object recognition and speech. It may be helpful to know that most preemies take between 24 and 36 months to truly catch up to their peers born on schedule. The bottom line for parents of preemies is that an infant's adjusted age is simply a guideline to tabulate progress. It's no surprise if you're wondering about the physical development of your premature baby. Preemies are notorious for being tiny, but don't worry about your little one, as he or she will likely catch up to his peers in size by 12 months. And then continue to grow at a similar rate. However, there is always the chance that your child may never develop fully. This could be due to his premature birth, or genetic factors. The medical community is still not sure why some preemies fully develop, and others do not. While preemie motor and cognition skills have high success rates in terms of equivalency to full-term babies, there's still a laundry list of setbacks and/or illnesses to which your baby may be more susceptible, depending on how early he or she was born. If you think that your baby is behind in one or more areas of development, talk to his pediatrician.More »
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Premature babies are often prone to a number of different health issues. Learn more about the common medical problems in preemies here.
Transcript: Babies born before 34 weeks are often prone to a variety of different medical conditions. One of the...
Babies born before 34 weeks are often prone to a variety of different medical conditions. One of the most common of these preemie problems is jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, which affects about 80% of premature infants. Mild jaundice is also fairly common in full-term babies, affecting about 60% of full-terms infants. Jaundice occurs when a baby's immature liver is unable to filter the waste product bilirubin from the blood. This condition is usually mild and is often treated with UV phototherapy, and generally abates in a short period of time. However, very high levels of bilirubin waste buildup CAN lead to brain damage, so this condition is always watched carefully, in both pre-term and full-term babies. Your doctor may prescribe the biliblanket as an alternative and/or additional treatment for you child's jaundice. This system uses fiber optics and represents advanced technology in phototherapy treatment given in the hospital or at home. Apnea is another common health concern for premature babies. An apnea episode causes a baby to stop breathing, the heart rate to decrease, called bradycardia. There may also be associated cyanosis, or a blue discoloration to the skin. This is usually caused by immaturity in the part of the brain that controls breathing, Almost all babies born at 30 weeks or less will experience apnea. Another common problem diagnosed in pre-term babies is anemia, a condition that occurs when a baby experiences a shortage of red blood cells and iron, which affects the ability of the body to oxygenate the tissues and organs. In the first few weeks of life, infants don't make many new blood cells, and the cells they do make generally have a shorter life span than in adults. Iron is a major component in the process by which the hemoglobin in red blood cells transports and releases oxygen to the tissues so anemic babies often require iron supplements. Another condition to which preemies are susceptible is retinopathy, which is when the effects of oxygen toxicity damage the immature blood vessels in the premature infant's eye. It is a complex process, but the vessels become tangled and even scarred . Also known as retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP. It's important to note that these blood vessel changes cannot be seen with the naked eye. In order to reveal such problems, an eye exam is needed. For most, this condition abates on its own. Common symptoms include: abnormal eye movements, crossed eyes, severe nearsightedness, and whitish pupils. But because ROP CAN lead to vision loss, especially in those infants who are under 3 pounds at birth an ophthalmologist may suggest treatment with a laser or less commonly with a freezing machine, depending on the severity of the individual case. Regardless, close monitoring is required IVH, or intraventricular hemorrhage, is another condition common in preemies. A baby with IVH experiences bleeding in the brain, a problem that sounds frightening, but is usually mild. For more severe bleeds, a surgical procedure MAY be required to drain the excess blood, as this blood buildup can lead to brain swelling and damage. There are some heart and lung problems that can vary in severity, which occur with some frequency in preemies. The most common and immediate problem facing preemies is difficulty breathing. There are various causes for this, but the most common is called respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS. In RDS, an infant's immature lungs don't produce enough surfactant, a substance that allows the inner surface of the lungs to expand properly when going from womb to breathing air. Fortunately, RDS is treatable and many infants do quite well. There are medications to hasten surfactant production that can be given to the mother before birth. After birth, RDS may be prevented or improved by giving the infant natural surfactants through a breathing tube. Patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, is a heart problem that can affect a number of preemies. What happens is that a blood vessel, known as the ductus arteriosus, which is open in utero, fails to close up after an infant's birth, as it should. If the ductus arteriosus REMAINS open, the result can be fluid in the lungs and heart failure. Luckily, both prescription medications and surgery can help ensure that the blood vessel closes and that these serious complications don't result. Yet another serious preemie complication is called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. Simply put, NEC is tissue death in portions of the bowel. While no one is entirely sure why NEC occurs, it CAN be treated with antibiotics. Additionally bowel rest, which involves ONLY eating intravenously, can help speed recovery. Rarely, surgery becomes necessary to remove the damaged pieces of intestinal tract. Finally, remember that ALL premature babies have very immature immune systems and as such, this puts them all at a higher risk for MANY additional infections caused by invading viruses and bacteria. Luckily, NICUs offer an abundance of effective medication options for most preemie problems. If you have questions about possible medical complications and their treatments, speak to your neonatologist or NICU nurse.More »
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