Premature births are split into 2 categories; micro premmies (24-28 weeks) and premmies (28-36 weeks). Both generally require NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or SCN (Special Care Nursery)
time. There are a few known reasons to have a preterm baby but sometimes there is no definitive answer as to why it has happened. In Australia the statistics state 1 in 10 births is premature with the majority being between 32 weeks and 36 weeks.
Some of these reasons include:
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Urine infection
- Multiples pregnancy (twins or triplets etc)
- Previous preterm birth
- Cervix opening too early
- Unwell mother
- Unwell baby
- Physical trauma (fall or car accident etc)
- Alcohol & addictive substances
Babies born preterm sometimes have difficulty breathing and require CPAP or high flow oxygen. They regularly require a NG (nasal gastric) tube for feeding as the sucking reflex isn't developed until around week 34. This can be used for formula or breastmilk that has been pumped. Some babies got to sunbathe under a blue light to assist with jaundice. Adjusted age is based on their due date and actual age is based on their birth date. A baby born at 32 weeks could be 36 weeks adjusted but 4 weeks actual.
What will happen at the birth?
It is best to deliver at a hospital that has a NICU, if the hospital doesn't have a one, they may administer medication to slow or stop labour so they can transfer to another hospital. You will be given a corticosteroid injection to prove baby’s lung function. A medical team from neonatal unit will be present to care for baby immediately following birth. They will keep your baby warm and administer oxygen by mask or breathing tube. When baby is stable, they will move them to the NICU or transfer to a hospital that has one.
What will my premature baby look like?
Skin: It might not be fully developed, may appear shiny, translucent, dry or flaky. Baby may not have any fat under the skin to keep them warm.
Eyes: The eyelids may be fussed shut at first, however start responding to visual stimuli by 2 weeks old
Immature Development: your baby might not be able to regulate its body temperature, breathing or heart rate. They may twitch, become stiff or limp or be unable to stay alert.
Hair: your baby may have little hair on its head but lots of soft body hair
Genitals: The baby's genitals may be small and underdeveloped
Issues at Birth
- breathing problems
- heart problems
- digestive tract issues
- language delays
- growth and movement problems
- problems with teeth
- problems with vision or hearing
- thinking and learning difficulties
- social and emotional problems
If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and you experience any signs of premature labour, contractions, waters breaking, bleeding, show of mucous plug or a sudden decrease in baby's movements, contact your doctor or nearest delivery suite immediately. It may be possible to slow down or stop the labour
Any parents with premature babies needing support, contact the Miracle Babies Foundation on
1300 622 243