According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the proportion of premature births in Germany is about 8%. This means that 60,000 babies are born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy. The first period with the premature baby is a stress test for the whole family.
Reasons for premature births
The fact that a baby is born too early can have many different reasons. Frequently, amniotic fluid infections trigger premature birth through premature contractions and the bursting of the amniotic sac. Furthermore, certain diseases of the mother during pregnancy can trigger premature birth. The main reason is the so-called HELLP syndrome. The symptoms of the disease include disorders of liver function and high blood pressure. If the condition of both mother and child deteriorates, it may be necessary to induce birth at an early stage.
The frequency of premature births is also significantly increased in multiple births. The reason for this is an undersupply of embryos, sometimes simply a lack of space in the uterus. In addition, there are many other reasons that can trigger a miscarriage. These can be, for example, psychological stress or an unfortunate fall. Often the reasons are not understandable. Smoking is also a frequent trigger for premature births. Active and passive smoking during pregnancy impairs the child’s development. The development of the respiratory organs is disturbed and the tendency to premature births is significantly increased.
Risks with premature babies
One of the biggest problems in premature babies is the immaturity of the lungs. If the baby is not yet able to breathe properly, it must be artificially ventilated. Other problems can be caused by cerebral haemorrhages in very premature babies (under 32 weeks) and by the increased susceptibility to infection. All these risks make a hospital stay necessary, which can last up to three months. In particular, the risk of brain damage due to a lack of oxygen can be reduced.
Prognoses – What are the chances of survival for prematurely born babies
New treatment methods in obstetrics and advances in intensive care medicine for premature babies have greatly improved the chances of survival for premature babies. Nevertheless, the same still applies: The more immature the child is born, the lower its chances are, as complications can accumulate. The same applies to a healthy development without permanent damage. Expressed in figures, this means that approx. 60% of all babies born after the 24th week of pregnancy survive, and the trend is rising. However, the downside is that with the increasing chances of survival of very prematurely born babies, permanent damage such as motoric or reading/writing weaknesses also increases.
With the premature baby in hospital
Children who are born prematurely need intensive medical first aid. After birth, the baby is therefore brought to the premature infant ward or intensive care unit by the quickest route and placed in the incubator, which has similar climatic conditions to the womb. Depending on how mature the lungs are, the incubator is enriched with oxygen or the baby is intubated and given artificial respiration.
In order for premature babies to develop as well as possible under the given circumstances, physical contact with the parents is very important. For this purpose, the procedure of kangaroo care was developed, in which the babies are placed on the stomach of one parent for as much time as possible – if necessary with artificial respiration. In order to relieve the stress and pain caused by the frequent blood draws, the babies are provided with high-percentage sugar solution during this time. This comforts and reduces the stress and pain potential considerably. Meanwhile, the company also ensures that premature babies are provided with the quietest possible environment, since light and noise levels are also a stress factor.
The time spent in hospital is extremely stressful. A parent should always be on site and take care of the baby as much as possible. Especially when there are still siblings, this is a real stress test for the relationship and the whole family. You should accept any support you can get during this time. Get help from friends and family, let them bring you food and special premature infant diapers so that you can adjust to your baby in the hospital as fully as possible.