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Prematurity Awareness and what it is all about...

Posted Nov 17 2011 9:33am
This month is all about Prematurity Awareness and today is World Prematurity Awareness Day...
I could write a book about what this is all about...

Prematurity is all about being cheated out of a full 40 weeks of pregnancy...you know, the part of the pregnancy where women complain about...yeah...thats the part prematurity skips...I always wanted to be that pregnant woman complaining of her swollen cankles, her sore back, hips, etc...

Most of my babies came at 34 weeks...the longest I ever got to was 36 weeks...still early, but not as early as my twins whom I was cheated out of just about half my pregnancy. Pretty much the whole third trimester (with a little bit of second trimester)...17 weeks early. I missed out on everything except to feel the two of them moving around in me. Prematurity robs a mommy to be of her special time and its a very hard thing to take in.

Prematurity is about having your baby early, not being able to hold your baby right away...sometimes even for weeks.

...Its about being thrown into the whole NICU experience, be it either for feeding and heating issues or more, much more serious issues that mean life or death.

...Its about leaving the hospital without your baby...worried, scared and sad.

...Its about putting your baby's life in the care of the team of doctors and nurses in the NICU.

...Its about praying to God you don't get THAT call from the hospital to come right away because...well...they don't want to worry you...they'll tell you when you get there. Worry, pray, cry, worry, pray, cry....

...Its about finally being able to take your baby home, but not without infant CPR classes and car seat checks to make sure your little one can handle sitting in a car seat without change in oxygen sats or heart rate drops.

...Its all about learning how to use home health care equipment...apnea monitors, pulse ox monitors....when the alarms go off...what do you do? Worry, pray, check to make sure its nothing...then, go cry into your pillow.

Its about medications, doctor visits, therapies, feeding issues, hospital stays, RSV, being on house arrest from October to April for fear of your preemie getting sick.

Its about delays in development, hearing loss in some, eye problems in others.

Its about looking to the future but not being able to because of the fear that grips you at the thought of it.

And finally...

Its about many times, not bringing home that baby that you carried, had big dreams for, prayed over, cried over...loved.



Part one of my twin pregnancy video



Part two of my twin pregnancy video
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Premature infant
A premature infant is a baby born before 37 weeks gestation .
Causes
At birth, a baby is classified as one of the followingPremature (less than 37 weeks gestation)
Full term (37 to 42 weeks gestation)
Post term (born after 42 weeks gestation)
If a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks, it is called preterm labor.
Often, the cause of preterm labor is unknown.
Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.) makes up about 15% of all premature births.
Health conditions and events in the mother may contribute to preterm labor.
Examples areDiabetes
Heart disease
Infection (such as a urinary tract infection or infection of the amniotic membrane)
Kidney disease
Different pregnancy-related problems increase the risk of preterm laborAn "insufficient" or weakened cervix, also called cervical incompetence
Birth defects of the uterus (which is what I have)
History of preterm delivery
Poor nutrition right before or during pregnancy
Preeclampsia -- the development of high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy
Premature rupture of the membranes ( placenta previa )
Other factors that make preterm labor and a premature delivery more likely includeAfrican-American ethnicity (not related to socioeconomic status)
Age (younger than 16 or older than 35)
Lack of prenatal care
Low socioeconomic status
Use of tobacco, cocaine, or amphetamines

A premature infant's organs are not fully developed.
The infant needs special care in a nursery until the organ systems have developed enough to sustain life without medical support. This may take weeks to months.
A premature infant will have a lower birth weight than a full-term infant. Common physical signs of prematurity includeBody hair (lanugo)
Abnormal breathing patterns (shallow, irregular pauses in breathing called apnea)
Problems breathing due to immature lungs ( neonatal respiratory distress syndrome ) or pneumonia
Lower muscle tone and less activity than full-term infants
Problems feeding due to difficulty sucking or coordinating swallowing and breathing
Less body fat
Soft, flexible ear cartilage
Thin, smooth, shiny skin, which is often transparent (can see veins under skin)
Not all premature babies will have these characteristics.

If the infant has breathing problemsA tube may be placed into the windpipe (trachea). A machine called a ventilator will help the baby breathe.
Some babies whose breathing problems are less severe receive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) with small tubes in the nose rather than the trachea. Or they may receive only extra oxygen.
Oxygen may be given by ventilator, CPAP, nasal prongs, or an oxygen hood over the baby's head.
Nursery care is needed until the infant is able to breathe without extra support, feed by mouth, and maintain body temperature and a stable or increasing body weight. In very small infants, other problems may complicate treatment and a longer hospital stay may be needed.

Possible complications that may occur while in the hospital includeAnemia
Bleeding into the brain ( intraventricular hemorrhage of the newborn ) or damage to the brain's white matter ( periventricular leukomalacia )
Infection or neonatal sepsis
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, extra air in the tissue of the lungs (pulmonary interstitial emphysema), bleeding in the lungs (pulmonary hemorrhage)...this is what took our Nick to Heaven.
Newborn jaundice
Patent ducturs arteriosus this is what Kenny had to have surgery on when he was 7 days old.
Severe intestinal inflammation (necrotizing enterocolitis)
Possible long-time complications include Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
Delayed growth and development
Mental or physical disability or delay
Retinopathy of prematurity, vision loss, or blindness

Prevention
One of the most important steps to preventing prematurity is to receive prenatal care as early as possible in the pregnancy, and to continue such care until the baby is born. Statistics clearly show that early and good prenatal care reduces the chance of premature birth.
Premature labor can sometimes be treated or delayed by a medication that blocks uterine contractions. Many times, however, attempts to delay premature labor are not successful.
Betamethasone (a steroid medication) given to mothers in premature labor can reduce the severity of some of the prematurity complications on the baby.


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