Premature  babiesPremature babies are defined as those born between twenty-four and thirty seven weeks of gestation. The chances of survival for a baby born before twenty-four weeks of pregnancy are rather thin. These babies need to be cared and treated with special care and caution since their chances of survival are slim as their body organ are not fully developed. The smaller and less mature the premature baby is at birth, the greater will be its problems in the long run. These babies can develop mental retardation, learning disorders, vision, and speech and hearing disorders.

The common problems linked with premature babies are:

  • They are more susceptible to infection and thus can suffer from any disease, which can lead to severe problems.
  • There is a greater likelihood of contracting jaundice and these babies are more vulnerable to its effects.
  • They face a very high risk of bleeding in the brain leading to the development of hydrocephalus.
  • They are susceptible to respiratory distress syndrome. Premature babies have difficulty in gas exchange as a result of protein and fluid collection within the small air sacs and this can lead to death of the child itself.
  • They also face congenital defects, including those that affect the heart.

Premature babies are put straight into intensive care and require round-the-clock nursing. They are usually kept in incubators. They are fed intravenously and if necessary put on the respirator to help them breath. They have to be monitored round the clock in order to check their vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and pulse. They are kept in the incubators as long as they are not out of danger and even after discharge from the hospital, these babies will require periodic evaluations from paediatricians, neonatologists, ophthalmologists and psychologists.

The advances in neonatal care have however increased the chances of survival of premature babies with more and more of such babies surviving however what cannot be said is the quality of their life and whether these babies will live a healthy life or not. The babies that survive may be severely handicapped both physically as well as mentally. It is a very difficult for the parents as well as the doctor knowing that the baby though may survive will be severely handicapped. At the same time, it is very difficult for both parents and doctors to take a decision to let the baby die. Parents should try to keep in mind that deciding to save the baby could be a cruel decision if the baby is going to be severely handicapped since it will be very difficult for the child to live such a life as well as parents should also think as to who will take care of them when they are not around.


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