Health problems can happen to babies who are born early, especially those who are born very early. It is caused by many things, like problems during pregnancy, a body that isn’t fully grown, a low birth weight, treatments in the hospital, and infections that the baby can’t fight off. What are the most common risks associated with premature birth, and where can they get help?
As neonatology improves, babies are being saved at younger and younger ages. Right now, the youngest child that can be saved is at 22 weeks of pregnancy. The more likely a child is to have problems, which can lead to abnormal psychomotor development, the younger and less developed they are. But it’s important to know that this development is affected not only by the child’s health and problems during pregnancy and birth, but also by things in the outside world. When rehabilitation and therapy are chosen and done at the right time, the child is more likely to be able to function well in the future.
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature birth
A premature baby’s lungs aren’t fully developed yet, so they can’t make surfactant on their own, which is needed for them to work properly. Lack of it causes the alveoli to collapse, which makes it hard to breathe. Because of this, the smallest children often need long-term help breathing (like a ventilator or nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is often caused by the use of mechanical ventilation and oxygen therapy, which are both necessary. It’s a bit of a catch-22: on the one hand, the child needs help from machines, but on the other hand, the machines hurt his lungs and make it harder for them to heal.
Most babies with dysplasia get better after a few weeks, but sometimes a premature baby who comes home from the hospital still needs oxygen. Children with dysplasia are more likely to get viral illnesses, ear infections, and asthma than children who don’t have dysplasia. They should stay away from things that are bad for the lungs, like cigarette smoke or chemicals in cleaners.
Retinopathy of prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity, a disease of the retina of the eye that can cause vision loss or worsening, is another common problem in premature babies. It happens because the blood vessels in the retina aren’t fully grown yet, which leads to abnormal growths and, in turn, detachments. As with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, long-term mechanical ventilation may be a risk factor in this case.
Premature babies should have their eyesight checked regularly: at 4, 8 and 12 weeks of age, and then at 1, 2 and 6 years of age. They are usually visited by an ophthalmologist in the hospital.
Hearing problems in premature babies
A premature baby’s hearing may be affected by factors such as hypoxia, low Apgar score and frequent jaundice in premature infants, or hospital procedures, ototoxic drugs or infections. Sometimes only observation is enough, sometimes it is necessary to implement treatment, the details depend on the individual situation.
Patent ductus arteriosus in premature infants
Patent ductus arteriosus (known as Botalla’s duct) is a common problem in premature babies. It is a connection between the aorta and the pulmonary trunk. In the smallest children, this closure is delayed, which is the cause of cardiorespiratory disorders.
Necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants
Necrotizing enterocolitis is a disease that occurs almost exclusively in premature infants. There are several reasons for its appearance, including the immaturity of the digestive system and irregularities in the blood or oxygen supply. It can also be caused by infections and undigested milk residues in the intestines.