Premature Birth as previously mentioned is still a notable factor in regards to childbirth. Thankfully due to advancements in medicine, the outcome and even occurrence are better managed. The risk of infant mortality has also seen a significant reduction. Direct treatment of prematurity involves several modalities but caring for a mother at risk is usually the first line of action. Preventing a premature birth is the first step in management; this is only instituted when the mother or baby’s health is not at significant risk. Doctors usually recommend certain medications that help delay delivery. In the cases where this fails or delivery is of utmost importance so as to prevent death, a high-risk birth is performed.
A high-risk birth as the name suggests needs to be carried out in a facility where proper treatment of the premature baby can be guaranteed. The infant is usually transferred immediately after birth to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and placed in a temperature controlled incubator. Treatment while in the NICU is largely dependent on which vital organs haven’t fully developed. The baby’s breathing; blood oxygen levels and heart rate are closely monitored. Phototherapy lights that help with pale or yellowing of the skin are utilised if required. Oxygen is given if lungs aren’t fully developed. Due to under development, coordination of sucking and swallowing is not possible hence the need for intravenous feeding. The baby will require medical support until the doctor gives the all clear; this can take weeks or even months.
The monitoring of premature infants usually continues even after discharge from the hospital as sometimes long-term problems are a possibility. Careful monitoring of your baby’s growth and development is recommended. Noting developmental milestones and learning abilities play an important role in determining further management.
Preventing premature births is not an exact science as being unable to identify an exact cause is difficult. Ensuring an expectant mother receives prompt and proper prenatal and antenatal care does significantly reduce the risk of having a premature birth.
Other necessary preventive measures include:
- For those with a pre-existing medical condition that might impact negatively on your pregnancy, ensure you seek medical advice before getting pregnant.
- Eating a healthy, enriching diet before and during pregnancy, remembering that your baby is what you eat.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Exercising and staying fit.
- Staying clear of the use of illicit drugs, quit smoking, drink less alcohol or avoid it all together for the period of the pregnancy.
- Talk to your doctor before getting pregnant.
To conclude, premature births are avoidable if you make a conscious effort to get informed about the risk factors and how best to avoid them.