We all know that babies are rarely born on their due dates. But when they are born way before they are expected (before the 37th week of pregnancy), it can be the most difficult situation you will ever face.
Two of my children were born early. One at 26 weeks, and one at 33 weeks. Life was tough, but we got through it.
Premature births, or preterm births, count for around 10% of births in Australia. Up to 45,000 babies are admitted into neonatal intensive and special care units every year. A premature or preterm birth is traumatic for any parent. You can never fully prepare for a birth which may result in a premature infant. However, if your baby is likely to be born prematurely, you will benefit from exploring what life will be like with your baby. Reasons a baby might be born early are:
- Multiple birth
- Placenta Praevia
- Pre Eclampsia
- Premature labour
- Premature Rupture of Membranes
- Placental abruption
- Weak or Incompetent cervix
- High blood pressure
- Previous premature birth
You may have some warning about your imminent premature birth. If you do, here is some advice
Visit your Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. The sounds, equipment, and constant staff activity may scare you. But learning about how it all works to help save your baby will lessen the probability of suffering shock when you and your baby arrive in the nursery.
Speak with a lactation counsellor, or the Australian Breastfeeding Association about how to feed your baby. If you baby is too young or weak to suck, she will probably be fed via a nasogastric tube. You will need to express milk for her four hourly. Hire a breast pump. There are companies who deliver hospital grade pumps to you in home or hospital. Breast pumps are often unavailable in large hospitals due to the large number of mothers and babies using the equipment so you will need your own.
Organise care for your other children, help with the home and meals, and plan ahead for the coming months. Your baby may be hospital for a while, and could even be quite a long way from home, depending on the availability of NICU beds in your region. If you have no family or friends who are available to help, you may need to hire someone. There are agencies who provide home care, childcare and meals.
Talk to a social worker about help with the costs of hospital parking. It can get expensive, but you may be able to get a pass if you explain the situation to someone.
If you feel that you may be at risk of Postnatal Depression, talk to your Obstetrician, Midwife or GP. Mothers of premature infants are more likely to experience PND due to the huge stress that life with a sick baby entails.
Some practical advice –
Buy a small esky to transport your milk from home to hospital. Ask your partner to photograph your newborns first moments in NICU. Your bub will be whisked away to NICU immediately after birth and you will find yourself wondering what she looks like. Write a little birth plan outlining your hopes for what you wish to happen during and after baby’s arrival. Buy a blank book and diarise your journey.
Premmies are monitored closely for around three years. They have yearly checks after this up to eight years of age. They may suffer learning difficulties, developmental delays, fine or gross motor skill difficulties. Babies who are born prematurely are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems, brain or heart issues and low muscle tone. They will usually be smaller then other children their age in the long term. But are most likely to suffer no major problems in later life.
Article By Michelle Galilee from www.sydneybubs.com.au
The subject matter provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s advice. Please ALWAYS contact your doctor if you ever have questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.