November is National Premature Awareness Month.
Sadly, there are 15 million babies are born prematurely each year – and complications from premature birth are the leading cause of death among children under 5, taking nearly 1 million lives annually.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, premature birth is the biggest contributor for infant death, with most preterm-related deaths occurring among babies who were born very preterm, before 32 weeks.
Premature (also known as preterm) birth refers to when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature birth is a concern because babies born too soon miss out on this valuable time to grow and develop. Babies who survive may spend weeks or months hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and may face lifelong problems such as
- Intellectual disabilities
- Cerebral palsy
- Breathing and respiratory problems
- Visual problems including retinopathy of prematurity
- Hearing loss
- Feeding and digestive problems
Fortunately, the medical community is aware of precautions can be taken by adapting to these newborns’ unique physiological and developmental needs.
Dräger, a leader in neonatal care, suggests the following that can be done to encourage preemie development including
- Noise: Better protect preemies from noise stress by controlling their exposure to harmful noise. Loud noise in the NICU can produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and oxygenation.
- Light: Efforts must be made to better control disturbing light in the NICU. While infants in the NICU are exposed to constant light, studies have shown that bright light levels in the NICU may have negative results on the growth and development of preemies.
- Cold/Heat: A preemie’s temperature must be kept stable at all times to better protect and prevent cold or heat stress.
“There is nothing more exciting than the birth of a newborn, but for families of babies born prematurely life’s first moments may be some of the hardest as they are forced into the NICU upon birth,” said Merouane Djerbal, Draeger Director of Marketing. “At this time, nothing is more important than ensuring utmost care to the family’s new baby, and we can do this by creating an environment that caters to their unique developmental needs and understands just how sensitive a preemie’s senses are at this stage of life.”