What Are The Health Concerns Of A Preemie After Being Discharged Home?
A baby that is born premature may have a number of health concerns during delivery, while in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and after he has been discharged home. With the support and care of the doctors and nursing staff team, your preemie will soon begin to thrive. But it's important to understand that certain health problems and complications can't be prevented. Understanding common premature birth concerns and how they are treated might reduce anxiety and stress brought on after taking your baby home.
Premature babies often stop breathing for a few moments. This condition is called apnea. Apnea is the absence of breathing for 10-20 seconds long. These breathing pauses may cause your baby's heartbeat to slow and his skin to become pale, mottled or bluish. This is called bradycardia. Apnea occurs in 85 percent of babies born premature because their brains and lungs are not fully developed. Apnea normally last until your baby's breathing and central nervous systems mature, which may take from a few days to several days. Medication and respiratory support may also help.
Jaundice shows itself as a yellowish tinge to your baby's skin, gums, and to the white of their eyes. The yellow tinge is caused by a pigment called bilirubin, which is produced when old red blood cells are broken down. Treatment for jaundice during the hospital stay involves being placed under a bilirubin light called phototherapy. Jaundice itself is not a disease and it is very common in all newborn babies, full term and premature alike. It can sometimes be a sign of some conditions, such as an under performing liver.
Complications with premature-related respiratory problems can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an acute infection of the lungs. Pneumonia is an infection in the area of the lung involved in the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen causing inflammation which reduces the amount of space available for the exchange of air. If pneumonia is spotted early and treated promptly with a course of antibiotics either by IV or by injection, premature babies have an excellent chance of recovering completely.
Anemia is a medical condition caused by abnormally low concentration of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry vital oxygen around the body. If there aren't enough red blood cells, your baby's heart will have to pump harder to make the most of what oxygen is available. If the anemia comes on suddenly, your baby will be very sick. He will look pale, have clammy skin and a fast pulse, and he will need extra oxygen. Tests will show that he has a low level of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
Sepsis is the medical term for an infection of any sort. Premature babies are especially vulnerable to infections. Sepsis may occur early from exposure to bacteria in the womb or birth canal. Other forms of exposure can come from injections, heel prick tests, an IV line into the arm or leg, breathing or feeding tubes. All of these offer a possible way for germs to spread inside your baby. Since your baby was born premature, his immune system has not yet had time to develop full and he might have missed out on some of the infection-fighting antibodies he would have gotten from his mother.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) causes harsh, irregular breathing and difficulties due to the lack of a specific agent (surfactant) in the lungs that helps prevent the lungs from collapsing. Without surfactant, these air sacs (called alveoli) which make up the lungs - sag inward between breaths, making it harder for the baby to take the next breath. Preemies may need artificial surfactant, or may need help breathing while their lungs mature.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
A potential serious condition that affects the bowels of some newborn babies, necrotizing enterocolitis can occur when something is interfering with the blood flow to the baby's bowel, causing the the lining of the intestines to become infected and die.
Since it can be difficult to tell for sure whether a baby has NEC, the doctors will probably order X-rays to check for any swelling in your baby's bowel or for telltale gas bubble.s When it’s caught early, NEC is treated with antibiotics. Feedings are stopped and infants receive nutrition through an IV. Serious cases of NEC may require surgery.
Of all the potentially serious problems a premature baby may have, breathing problems are the likeliest. Your baby's doctors will know the difference between nonchronic and chronic lung disorders.
Do not hesitate to ask questions if you baby is in the hospital or call from home if your baby has been discharged. Concerns about your baby's development should always be an important issue especially if your baby seems listless, has poor color or refuses the bottle or breast after trouble-free feedings.
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