Premature Birth – How Can Parents Be Best Prepared For It?

Welcome and thank you for listening!

Our special guest today is, Dr Ida du Plessis-Faurie, a Registered Nurse and Midwife, with a PhD in Maternal and Child Nursing: Advanced Midwifery and Neonatal Nursing Science. A model for nurses to facilitate mother’s caring for their preterm infants in the community stemmed from her research.

She completed her Master’s degree in Advanced Neonatal Nursing (cum laude) and worked in NICUs over a period of +/- 22 years.

As a neonatal nursing consultant, Ida can live out her passion regarding maternal and child health, by running her private practice and teaching healthcare professionals regarding neonatal care. Ida developed five short learning programmes, one of the programmes resulting from her doctoral studies. The programmes developed as she observed and experienced a gap in knowledge and skills regarding neonatal care, particular to the current South African context.

In today’s podcast she will be talking about Prematurity, the impact it has on Baby and what can be done to help Baby grow and develop in healthy way…

A Premature Start To Life

Here are some basic facts to help you better relate to the preemie-moms you may meet.

People often think that premature babies are simply born before ‘term’ babies; they stay in the NICU until they’re out of any life-threatening danger and until they’ve caught up, and then everything’s back to normal – right? Not quite.

What Does Prematurity Mean?

A premature baby is born before the usual 37-40 weeks. They’re not only smaller, but also often underdeveloped, born before they are completely mature or ready. The good news is that with the quality of medical care available today, most preemies have a very good chance of survival. Some preemies will need intensive care, but others may only need a bit of specialised care.

In addition, low-tech strategies like skin-to-skin and kangaroo mother care make all the difference and can be safely used for most premature babies; research shows how these babies often adjust to conditions out of the womb better, breastfeed more successfully and pick up weight faster.

Possible Complications

Very premature babies can be quite a shock to see: purplish-red with wrinkled skin and more vernix and body hair than in term babies. Usually, the smaller and more premature Baby is, the more complications like breathing and heart problems, digestive difficulties, stunted growth and anaemia there are. There might also be:

Temperature control problems – Baby doesn’t have enough body fat to keep warm, so he uses all the energy from food to stay warm instead of for growing.

  • Weak immunity –Baby may be prone to catching infections in the first months.
  • Problems feeding – breastfeeding may take a bit more patience, but Baby needs every drop of breast milk’s goodness. Solids are only introduced at about six months corrected age, so that’s quite a bit later than for term babies.
  • Hearing and vision problems – Baby will need to be tested regularly in the early years.
  • Tactile defensiveness – an inability to tolerate touch stimulation; Baby will arch away from contact, cry constantly, and dislike labels in clothing and lumps in food.Some of Baby’s milestones may be a little bit delayed compared to term babies, but he should catch up by the time he starts school. Most preemies outgrow all complications, but there are some more serious conditions which may continue into adulthood.Corrected age is worked out from Baby’s due date instead of his date of birth.

Factors Contributing To Premature Birth

  • Smoking, drug, and alcohol use
  • Cervix and uterine abnormalities
  • Malnourishment – especially if Mom has a zinc deficiency
  • Multiple pregnancy – twins, triplets and more
  • Heavy physical labour
  • Prolonged, severe stress
  • Very young women (teenagers) or women over the age of 35