November 16, 2022
Dr Riaan van Lill, Paediatrican at Busamed Harrismith Private Hospital provides insight into preterm birth, its possible causes and some of the treatment that may be required for babies born prematurely.
What does it mean when a baby is born premature?
A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy (3 or more weeks before the due date) is called “premature” or “preterm.” Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks, counting from the first day of your last period.
This is not rare and can affect any person as can be seen from the numbers below.
Worldwide, the incidence of preterm birth is estimated to be approximately 10 percent (range 5 percent in parts of Europe to 18 percent in parts of Africa), and approximately 15 million children are born preterm each year. Of these preterm births, 85 percent occurred at 32 to 36 weeks gestational age (GA), 10 percent occurred at 28 to <32 weeks GA, and 5 percent occurred at <28 weeks GA.
What causes premature birth?
It’s not always possible to know the cause. But some reasons that might cause a person to go into labor early include:
What kinds of problems can premature babies have after birth?
Premature babies can have many different problems after being born. Every baby is different. But in general, the earlier a baby was born and the less they weighed, the more likely they are to have health problems.
While a baby is still in the womb, their organs and body parts are growing and developing. Premature babies can have problems because they haven’t had enough time to develop all the way.
Some of the more common issues are:
What treatments might my baby need?
It depends on how early your baby was born, how much they weigh, and what health problems they have. Your baby might need to go to the neonatal intensive care unit, or “NICU.” This is a part of the hospital for babies who need special care.
A premature baby might need one or more of the following:
If your baby’s condition is stable, the doctor or nurse might suggest that you hold your baby directly against your body for “skin-to-skin” contact also sometimes called Kangaroo Mother Care or KMC for short.
Will my baby have long term problems?
Maybe. Some premature babies have health problems later in life, while others do not. The earlier a baby was born, the higher the chances of long-term problems.
Some of the problems that can affect premature babies later in life are:
How can I get support?
Having a premature baby can be hard and stressful. Social workers and spiritual counselors can provide support during this difficult time. There are also support groups for parents of premature babies. It can be helpful to talk to other people who are going through the same things. Try to get help from these sources and from relatives and friends. That way you will have support both in the hospital and at home.
Dr. Riaan van Lill
Busamed Harrismith Private Hospital
November 22, 2023
November 2, 2023