Posted by: Nancy Brown | May 25, 2007

Preemies= “Just small babies”

When I was a little girl I got a “Preemie” cabbage patch kid for Christmas. It was TINY tiny compared to the other dolls. It was bald. It had TINY clothes and it was cute. My sister and I each had one. They came with the same “adoption papers” as the regular cabbage patches. But where they “really” any different? OR where they just little babies?

 Whenever preemie babies ae discussed twins and other multiples are discussed so some statistics are found from multiples and not just “singletons.”

Here are some thoughts for you..

Premature births have increased health risks for both mom and baby. Not all pregnant women are given the “whole truth” or the full picture while pregnant ( wither with Twins or with singles).

The stories of prematurity you don’t see are the  damaged children suffering long-term effects of severe prematurity, terrible miscarriages, infant mortality, grieving families, parents who are overwhelmed and who in turn suffer depression, anxiety and even as severe as PTSD.

In three decades prematurity has risen 33 percent.

1 in 8 children in the US is born prematurely.

Eleven percent of newborns covered by employer health plans are born prematurely.

Direct health care costs to employers for a premature baby average $41,610 —15 times higher than the $2,830 for a healthy, full-term delivery.

Prematurity is the leading kille of America’s newborns. Those who survive othen have lifelong health problems, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss.

Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman. The causes of nearly half of all preterm births are unknown.

A study done by the March of Dimes found that only 35 percent of the American public appreciates the severe risks posed by prematurity. But the statistics are cold and unforgiving. Fifty percent of twins are born prematurely. Ninety percent of triplets are premature, as are virtually all quads and quintuplets. Depending on how premature they are, these children’s lungs are often immature and undeveloped, so they cannot breathe unaided. They are hooked up to ventilators, machines that breathe for them, which sometimes scar the lungs so the children will for the rest of their lives be prone to asthma, pneumonia, chronic lung disease, and other respiratory problems. The brain is another vulnerable area: its many folds and creases often have not been fully laid down, and insulating fiber has not formed over developing nerve fibers. As a result, premature babies are susceptible to brain hemorrhages, and to later brain-related developmental problems, including learning disabilities.

Now some info on the things that go wrong….

Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) – Babies born at less than 34 weeks have an increased risk of bleeding in their brain. This happens because immature blood vessels may not tolerate the changes in circulation that take place during labor. This can lead to future complications such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and learning difficulties. Intracranial hemorrhage occurs in about 1/3 of babies born at 24-26 weeks gestation. If preterm labor is identified and is inevitable, there are medications that can be given to the mother to help lessen the chance of severe intracranial hemorrhage in the newborn.

Apnea and Bradycardia – Apnea is the absence of breathing. In the NICU an alarm will sound if your newborn has an irregular breathing pattern which consists of intervals of pauses longer than 10-15 seconds. Bradycardia is the reduction of heart rate. An alarm will also sound if your newborn’s heart rate falls below 100 beats per minute. Usually a little tap or simple rub on the back helps remind the preemie to breath or brings the heart rate up.

Inability to maintain body heat – A premature baby is born with little body fat and immature skin which does not allow him or her to maintain body heat. Treatment involves warmers or incubators to help them keep warm.

Inability to maintain body heat – A premature baby is born with little body fat and immature skin which does not allow him or her to maintain body heat. Treatment involves warmers or incubators to help them keep warm.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) – This is a potentially blinding eye disorder. It affects most preemies between 24-26 weeks gestation and rarely does it affect preemies beyond 33-34 weeks gestation. There are many different stages and treatment depends on severity and may include laser surgery or cryosurgery.

 “All their organs are premature,” explains the perinatal nurse. “You have complications of every organ. There’s growth and development issues, feeding issues, developmental delays. A lot of these babies have reflux. Also, there’s eye changes, retinopathy; some of these babies will lose peripheral vision. Any organ, when the baby is born preterm, is immature. The brain, lung, GI tract, eyes.” Infection is also a constant danger, both after birth and as they grow.

A result of the complications are post bleed hydrocephalus, CP, CVI, Blindness, Deafness, NEC and constant bowel issues, Reflux, and CLD.

These babies are not just small they are babies that for the rest of their lives will have some “battle wound.” For some larger than others. I can tell you that for our preemie he will have life long burns on his belly, skin tears under his arm, glasses from his “almost legally blind” eyes, scars on his head, a shunt, a PDA, places where you can see the IV sticks and years of PT, OT and speech. What is sad.. we are the lucky ones. We have success. We have a fairly “normal” child. We don’t have a wheelchair, he has some sight, he has so many things that we escaped.

Are they just tiny babies? Yes… and much much more. They are walking ( some riding) miracles. They truly are.

 They are not just little babies, they are our babies and we love them…

All we want is our nine months!! We want others to understand. We want you to allow us our frustrations. We would like you to walk a day in our shoes but not have to do it yourself.

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