The ideal time to give birth is when your baby has reached full term or a minimum of 39 weeks. Unfortunately, though, you may deliver earlier than that. Your baby is considered premature if he or she is born anytime before you’ve reached your 37th week of pregnancy. If your baby is premature, you should be prepared for the extra care measures that may be needed for their proper development.
Your preemie will not have a fully developed immune system, so he or she will be vulnerable to germs. As a result, you will be washing your hands nearly constantly or at least before you touch your baby. You will also need to limit access to your newborn, even after you take him or her home. Keep the number of visitors down and make sure they wash their hands thoroughly before they hold your infant. Be relentless in screening your visitors as well. If your mother-in-law has a sniffle, ban her from the baby no matter how hard that may be.
One of the biggest problems that preemies face is underdeveloped lungs. As a result, they sometimes have lung disease that requires oxygen treatment while they’re in the hospital or even after they leave. Premature babies may also have sleep apnea, which can be treated by a bubble CPAP at home. Some of these lung problems clear up after a few years, but your child may end up with a chronic condition that requires lifelong medications.
Although your baby may well catch up physically in a few years, premature babies are more likely to have certain learning issues than those born at full term, particularly if they weighed less than 3 1/4 lbs. at birth. They may experience coordination problems that can make drawing and writing more difficult. They may lag in reading skills and the ability to follow directions. Also, abstract thinking may be more difficult as well as tasks that involve memory. You may need to intervene early to help your child be successful in his or her educational endeavors.
Many premature infants thrive after a few months, but others do experience more challenges than full-term babies. If your baby is born early, you need to be prepared to deal with some health issues. Breathing is often a problem, as well as giving them proper nutrition and learning to soothe them. Early intervention, both for physical issues and learning problems, can help your child reach their full potential.