A baby is considered premature at any time less than 37 weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Jeffrey S. Gerdes, M.D. discusses the concerns relating to premature babies in this video from Parents.TV.
Male: Annie is stretching legs— Female: It all happened within five hours. It was the best five hours of my life. And I—moving around all day and she was usually very active. So I called the doctor and he said just do yourself a favor, go to the hospital. Get checked out. It's probably nothing—keep progressing throughout the night, so we’ll keep you here for an hour, we’ll keep you here for two hours, we’ll keep you here for four hours, we’re going to keep you overnight. We’re going to move you to labor and delivery just in case. And that’s kind of when we started to panic a little bit. A couple of while later, all the doctors and nurses came in and said they strongly advice us to deliver her that night. I remember asking the doctors, “can you even deliver a baby this young?” and we were just so horrified at it. Male: The whole process is kind of like going into hyper drive and it's very surreal. You know you sort of expecting this baby to come several months down the road and all of the sudden it's like whoa, it's going to happen in an hour. Male: In most cases, we can't prevent prematurity. If we knew how to do that, we would do it. A baby is considered premature at any time less than 37 weeks. So abnormal gestation is considered 40 weeks, more than nine months and under 37 weeks is considered premature birth. Zoey Wells was born prematurely at 28 weeks gestation. She initially has some respiratory distress syndrome. She was on a respirator machine for just a few days. So, she’s then breathing just you know atmosphere room air ever since and working on learning to grow up. Learning to eat, gain weight and so forth. So, you know and I’d hope she’s done very well. Female: We've bee really lucky she’s done everything very well so far. She hasn’t had any problems or complications. She’s just kind of in here growing and getting bigger. Male: Nationwide in the United States, approximately 10% of all births are considered premature. Most of the problems of premature babies are maturation problems. They’re not supposed to be out yet so their digestion, their breathing and so on just isn’t taking hold. And our job is actually help them through those until they get close to their due date. And in most cases, once their getting up towards their due date, the babies take over most of these functions. For their whole host of reasons why babies are born prematurely, multiple gestations. If there are twins, triplets or quadruplets, there is not as much room in the womb so babies tend to come out early. Certain maternal conditions require the baby to come out early. The mother is sick with blood pressure problems or kidney failure and such. Sometimes the water, the bag, the membranes break early. We don’t know why that is but when that happens, it's likely to lead premature birth, premature labor which we don’t understand why with no other complications. The uterus sometimes simply starts to contract before the—that’s a very common cause. When a premature baby is born, then the expert staffs which are neonatologists and neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists starts to care of the premature baby right away in the delivery suite. The babies are transferred readily to either a stabilization area or an intensive acre unit. Initially, most premature babies are fed intravenously because they’re not prepared to digest. Then assuming mother’s going to breastfeed. The mother starts to pump her breast with electric breast pumps. We have whole systems set up to take that milk and label it and freeze it and store it and then give it to the baby as needed. Initially usually through a tube feeding because a small premature baby can't suck and swallow and breath simultaneously. So we start with two feedings. Then around the 33rd, 34th week, most babies learn the transition from the tube feeding to bottle feeding with a soft nipple and also at the breast. If mother cannot breastfeed, she’s not going to breastfeed. Then we have special formulas that are made to meet the nutritional needs of premature babies. Once premature get discharged home, the follow up needs vary. Most premature babies do need special attention at least in the early weeks and months, watching their blood counts for anemia always tend to be low, making sure the weight gain is good. Some premature babies are home on a breathing monitor. It's a risky situation. There is no doubt about it. When a baby is born prematurely, it's definitely a risky situation and so we can't ignore that fact. Some premature babies, their lungs are underdeveloped or have other complications that we can't deal with. Some of the premature babies don’t survive of course. But for the most part, most premature babies go home and fairly rapidly get into a fairly normal existence. Female: I woke up on June 18th. That morning at about 5:00 AM and normally I usually get up at 5:00, went to the bathroom and I noticed lots of blood. And my gut said let’s call 911. What they did at the hospital once I arrived is examined me and realize that the placenta abrupted. So the baby was not stressed. The baby was fine. He was doing wonderful but they couldn’t stop the bleeding. So they wanted to save me. So they said “we have to deliver by emergency C section”. This is the third child. I have two other children Sierra and Tyler. And this was the first time I had a premature baby. The other children were full term, no problems at all. He checked out at the hospital on July 28. So he spent a total of five weeks there. And which he came home earlier than the normal due date. Usually prematures stay until their mature date. So he came out early because he’s doing very, very well. There are still lots of visits because he is still considered premature. So we've been going every two weeks to the eye doctor and pretty much every two to three weeks to the pediatrician. Until that first year, they explained that to me. During the first year, it's kind of critical still because you don’t know the development stage. So although he appears to be fine, beautiful and healthy, they still have to monitor his development stage. What I can recommend to all the moms to be is definitely take one day at a time. I mean everyone wants to have a full term uneventful pregnancy but things like this do happen. I’d say pack that bag early and having the doctor’s information available, that kind of emergency kit. I mean considering it was an experience I'll never forget, it has blessed my life. Male: We have babies come back for follow-up visits everyday of the year including twins today whoa re extremely sick in the nursery about two years ago. On respirators and low blood pressure and the whole nine yards, they can walk on in and say you know “hi, how you are doing? Thank you very much” and so, it's a very gratifying feeling.