Most premature babies have special health problems. Here are some of the conditions your baby may experience:
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): difficulty breathing caused by a lack of surfactant, a substance that normally prevents the lungs from collapsing
- Apnea and bradycardia: apnea is any pause in breathing that lasts more than 20 seconds, and bradycardia is a slow heart rate
- Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTNB): fast breathing that occurs in the first few hours or days after birth and then goes away
- Chronic lung disease or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD): rapid or shallow breathing, wheezing, and crackling sound in the lungs that can last even after the baby goes home
- Pneumonia: infection that causes inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs that can interfere with the lungs' ability to transfer oxygen to the blood.
Heart and blood pressure
- Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA): a small hole in the heart that normally closes by itself, but may be more likely to stay open in preemies (it can be closed using medications or a simple operation)
- Low blood pressure
- Jaundice: yellowing of the skin or eyes because the liver has not developed well enough to remove bilirubin, a substance produced when red blood cells are broken down (excess bilirubin causes the yellow color)
- Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP): abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye that may lead to vision problems
- Necrotizing enterocolitis: a serious condition causing tissue in the bowel to die
- Blood sugar problems: blood sugar levels may be too high or too low (this does not mean that your child will develop diabetes later)
- It's important to realize that not all preemies will have these health conditions. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your baby's health.
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