Dealing with the Effects of a Premature Birth

Premature Birth

Excited parents-to-be tend to tick down the days of their pregnancy, hoping for a full-term and healthy addition to their family. Unfortunately, pre-term births and childbirth complications often challenge those expectations. A normal human gestational period is considered 40 weeks. But every pregnancy is different, and a birth can still be safe and successful a couple weeks on either side of the scale. A preterm delivery is one that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The longer a baby can gestate, the less likely birth complications will arise. Unfortunately, over 15 million babies globally are born preterm which translates to about one in every ten live births. About 450,000 preterm births occur in the U.S. alone, and those numbers are climbing. But what are some childbirth complications of a premature birth?

Feeding and Respiratory Concerns

Feeding issues are common directly after birth. This is especially the case with nursing for new mothers, regardless of the gestation range of the infant. But a common effect of premature birth involves the inability to nurse or feed directly from a bottle. IV fluids or tubes may need to be used for weeks to ensure proper nutrition. Early feeding challenges can lead to long-term feeding issues such as slow body growth and the body rejecting food absorption. Asthma, bronchitis, croup, and even a serious condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia are also far more common in premature births than full-term deliveries.

Speech, Vision, and Hearing Issues 

Very preterm babies born at or less than 32 weeks often have sensory issues. Speech delays or impediments are often factors which require specific treatment or ongoing speech pathology sessions. Hearing loss or complete deafness may occur. And preemies of this stage are also at high risk for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity which can lead to reduced vision or full blindness. Fortunately, ROP is easily treated when it’s caught early, so infants are usually screened prior to leaving the hospital. Necessary treatment may include freezing the eyes or laser treatment during surgery, and most cases make full recoveries… when they’re caught in time.

Learning and Retention Issues

Learning disabilities are the most common childbirth complications associated with premature births. Learning impairments are usually long-term and can range in severity between mild to severe. Unfortunately, they’re usually not discovered until the child enters school. Math is the most common subject affected while reading and vocabulary are minimally affected. Intervention and government programs such as Head Start can limit the issues and help increase educational success.

Cerebral Palsy and Permanent Disability

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that can affect the ability to maintain balance, movement, and posture. It’s the most common motor disability in childhood stages, and most often it’s developed at birth. This is especially the case with micro preemies, premature infants born below 26 weeks of gestation. In fact, 10-30% of all babies born under 2 pounds are eventually diagnosed with CP. Cerebral palsy can range in severity or even show little to no signs of impairment at all. But in moderate-to-severe cases, wheelchairs, braces, and lifelong treatment may be required as there is no cure for this condition. However, the right birth injury attorney may be able to help you get the financial assistance you need to ensure the best treatment options for your child. Give us a call when you’re ready to discuss your options.