Health Concerns of Late Preterm Babies

Health Concerns of Late Preterm Babies That You Should Know

A normal pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks where the baby is fully formed and born. However, there are a high number of cases where the infants are born just after 37 weeks of gestation. This is known as preterm or premature birth. While the cause for preterm birth is not known, there are numerous risk factors that contribute to it. A few are high blood pressure, diabetes, more than one baby in the womb, both extremes of being overweight and underweight, vaginal infections, and smoking. Medically induced labour is not recommended before 39 weeks unless there are other medical reasons. Given proper care and treatment, over 75% of preterm babies survive and live a normal life.

What is a Late Preterm Baby?

Late preterm babies are those born anywhere from 34 to 37 weeks of gestation. Although they are treated as normal, they are usually much smaller in size. Recent research has shown that preterm babies require unique and special care to meet the challenges. Late preterm infant risks and complications start to decrease from the 37th week and are almost completely relieved by the 39th week of gestation.

Health Challenges that Late Preterm Babies Might Face and How to Cope with Them

The care that preterm infants get is to ensure the child grows without any medical issues. Since they are in the womb for 34-37 weeks, they might have trouble with the temperature outside the womb and breathing. They have to work harder than a normal pregnancy infant to live. However, even infants that are late preterm are born healthy with no complications. Here are the health challenges that late preterm babies face and tips on how you can cope with them:

Immediately After Birth

The first few hours after birth is when the preterm infants face the most trouble as they adjust to life outside the uterus. Here are some of the complications prematurely born infants face immediately after birth.

Immediately After Birth

What You Can Do
Preterm infants are extremely fragile and not completely developed. They are kept in incubators which have similar conditions as available in the womb. Once the baby is developed and can breathe and adjust to his surroundings, he will be taken out of the incubator. Take turns with your partner to be with your baby and monitor him. If the baby has been discharged, monitor him constantly and be vigilant for signs of transient tachypnea and respiratory distress.

  • Hypoglycemia

This condition may occur as these babies do not have enough glycogen stored in them as full-term babies.

What You Can Do
Hypoglycemia can occur at any time without any warning. Preterm babies need to be constantly supervised for 48 gestation weeks until they start growing and are not at risk of this condition.

  • Lack of Thermoregulation

 Preterm babies usually do not have adequate fat stored in them as full-term babies and so, contract cold easily. They burn more calories to stay warm, making the hypoglycemia worse.

What You Can Do
Preterm babies are kept in the hospital and monitored for a few weeks. Make sure the baby is kept in ideal surroundings at the right temperature.

In the First Week

Preterm infants continue to face challenges in adjusting to the world outside. There are a high number of re-admissions of late preterm babies even after being discharged only at 48 weeks. Here are some of the most common medical issues premature infants face in the first weeks.

In the First Week

  • Jaundice

 Some late preterm babies that have jaundice may need clinical treatment.

What You Can Do
Preterm babies are not immune to fight diseases like jaundice. Jaundice can be prevented by initiating breastfeeding immediately after the baby is born. Frequently feeding the baby will make him strong enough to fight jaundice. You can also expose the baby to early morning sunlight after consulting with your paediatrician. This helps reduce the risk of jaundice. Babies with a serious jaundice condition will need to be kept under a special blue-green light in the hospital that lowers the bilirubin levels.

  • Sepsis

As the immune system of late preterm babies is not fully developed, they are a high risk of contracting infections. Neonatal sepsis is a blood infection that occurs in an infant younger than 90 days old. Preterm infants may require antibiotic therapy and even blood tests to ensure they are safe from infections of any kind.

What You Can Do
As preterm babies are weaker, they require twice the care as compared to full-term babies. They need to be kept in the Intensive Care Unit in the hospital where tests are constantly taken. They are monitored in sterile conditions to minimize the chances of an infection. You will need to constantly monitor your baby for signs of any infection.

After the First Week

After the first week, late preemies face these challenges

After the First Week

  • Challenges with Feeding

 Later preterm baby feeding can be a struggle as they get exhausted easily and so, usually, do not have the strength to consume breast milk or formula to gain weight. This can lead to dehydration and loss of weight.

What You Can Do
Breastfeeding must be done immediately and frequently after the baby is born. Preterm babies need more attention when it comes to feeding and sleep to become healthy faster. You can even consult your doctor to find alternate solutions to feed the baby.

  • Rate of Growth

Premature infants take a lot more time to grow in the first few months when compared to full-term infants. Since late preterm babies development is slow, it might even impact brain development. However, as the child grows older, with good care, they grow at a faster pace and lead a normal life.

What You Can Do
Preterm babies are not as fully developed and so, additional care must be given to them. Along with focusing on food intake, paying more attention to the baby can help them learn and catch up faster. This is, however, necessary only in a few cases.

While caring for a late preterm baby may seem overwhelming at first, it is important to remember that the infant is still developing. The baby requires additional care and support in the first few months to grow into a strong and healthy child.

Also Read:

What is Micro Premature Baby?
When to Start Weaning a Premature Baby?
Developmental Milestones of Premature Baby

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