Going into labor preterm does not always mean you will deliver a premature baby. However, parents with premature babies go through a tough time. These babies need to be in the NICU for a long time to recover from health problems. Their parents are unable to even hold them, and also face trouble in paying heavy medical bills. Here is all you need to know about preterm labor and birth.
What is a premature birth?
Any pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks. A premature baby is one that is born too early, at 37 weeks or less. They are underdeveloped and need to stay in the hospital for a long time because of several health problems. In fact, premature babies could even have health issues throughout their lives. There are different categories of prematurity:
Extremely premature (less than 28 weeks)
very premature (28 to 32 weeks)
moderate to late premature (32 to 37 weeks)
Do all premature babies have health issues?
A baby needs to stay in the womb for the full term of the pregnancy to develop. If this baby is born too early, his body is not ready to survive in this world. The earlier he is born, the more severe are his health problems. Most premature babies are rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Once they get stronger, they can go home with their parents.
Harshada’s twins were delivered at 28 weeks of pregnancy. The babies were rushed to the NICU and hooked to a ventilator as they had respiratory distress syndrome and extremely low birth weight. One of them was discharged after 2 months as soon she began to feed normally. However, the other twin is still critical and needs to be in the NICU for a few more weeks.
What are the health problems that affect a premature baby?
To start with, all premature babies are underweight. They also face one or more of the following medical conditions:
Infections – due to the improperly developed immune system, could affect any organ/system and can lead to sepsis.
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) – damaged lung and airways
Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) - bleeding in the brain
Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) – common breathing problem in babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy as they lack a protein surfactant that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.
Anemia – deficiency in red blood cells
Jaundice – liver inflammation causing yellow tinge in skin and eye
Apnea - Pause in breathing for 20 seconds or more with a low heart rate
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) – infection in the intestines
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) - an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye that could cause visual impairment
Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) - heart problem in the connection (ductus ateriosus) between two major blood vessels near the heart which do not close properly after birth
What is the treatment for premature babies?
If a pregnancy is found to be at high risk of premature birth, the mother is treated to extend the pregnancy as far as possible. This is because the baby needs as much time in the womb as possible.
However, if the baby must be delivered preterm, then he would be treated in the NICU. This might last for days, weeks, and sometimes even months. During this time, a parent’s life would revolve around the baby unit. A mother would be in shock, unable to hold or even feed her baby for the longest time. These parents can visit the hospital only a few times a day. Sometimes a father is not allowed inside the NICU and has to see his baby through a glass wall.
Rekha had a bad fall during her pregnancy. She was in a critical condition when they wheeled her into surgery. An emergency C-section later, her baby was born. Just at 30 weeks, he was extremely underweight. Rekha recovered, but her baby is still fighting for his life.
The NICU stay is quite expensive. Treatment for premature babies is intensive and drains parents physically, emotionally and financially. While they would have planned for parenthood, this would be an unexpected cost. Sometimes, they run out of all options. Crowdfunding eases the pain for such parents.
Through crowdfunding, the family of the patient can relieve some of the financial strain of the surgery by asking for the generous and compassionate support of the community.
How to use crowdfunding for preterm births?
Crowdfunding platforms like Milaap have become a popular option for families who are in immediate need of financial support especially when they have preterm births.