7 facts to know about preemies

Your tiny bundle may have arrived early but he’s a warrior! Find out why you should give extra TLC…

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If your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, he’s a premature baby or a preemie. A baby that’s full-term is usually born at between 37 and 42 weeks. No one wants a pre-term baby, not least since he might experience challenges growing up.

SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong notes that most preterm births occur during the third trimester, at around 34 weeks into one’s pregnancy. However, babies have also been  delivered at 24 weeks of gestation.

Needless to say, a preterm baby’s needs can differ greatly from a full-term one. Give him the best chance of survival by arming yourself with facts about his needs! Here’s what you need to know…

1) He’ll need more tools to survive

The more premature bubba is, the more he’ll rely on artificial support from machines to survive. Unlike full-term babies, who are naturally able to adjust rapidly to breathing on their own within the first few minutes of life.

Dr Low notes, “Additional physiological support will be provided to preterm [babies] such as warmth, oxygen, respiratory and cardiac support.”

Due to his low birthweight and low body fat, your kewpie will likely rely on the incubator to help keep warm. Oxygen respirators are crucial in the event your little one “forgets” to breathe — a condition called apnoea. Even as your baby may become healthy enough to leave the hospital, the docs may insist that you have such equipment on standby at home.

Dr Chong points out that more babies born earlier than 34 weeks and without any organ or foetal problems have a “generally good” prognosis for survival.

2) Although bubba may look a little different…

The majority of premature babies have a low birthweight — tipping the scales at less than 2.5kg. SmartParents expert Dr Low Kah Tzay, a paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, shares, “[Pre-term babies] are usually expected to catch up by the age of 2 years. Of course, for extremely preterm baby born at 24 weeks, they will need more time to catch up.”

More critically, you should ensure your kewpie is putting on weight in the weeks following birth. If you baby has problems gaining weight, it could suggest that his digestive system is not developing properly or that he is not getting sufficient nutrition from breastfeeding. Full-term infants can suckle to obtain nutrition or hydration without any assistance within mere hours from birth.

3 ) … he has a good chance of survival

Thanks to continuous advancements in medical science, babies born prematurely or weighing 800g or more (around week 27) should survive. Dr Chong points out that more babies born earlier than 34 weeks and without any organ or foetal problems have a “generally good” prognosis for survival. Babies born after 34 weeks of pregnancy stand an even better chance of survival.

Dr Chong explains, “In Singapore, we are fortunate that most patients have very good antenatal care and often premature labour before 34 weeks of gestation can possibly be delayed till past 34 weeks — when survival rates are much better — with excellent management and medication.”

Learn four more facts about preemies…next!