Premature babies, otherwise known as preterm babies, or preemies, are
babies that are born earlier than the full-term of thirty-eight to forty-two
weeks of pregnancy. These babies are generally born between the twentieth and
thirty-eighth week. Almost 250,000 babies, nearly seven percent of newborns,
are premature(Golant 4). Prematurity, even with all the advances in technology,
is still a major cause of fetal and neonatal death. Actually, around seventy-
five percent of perinatal deaths are due to a number of problems associated
with prematurity(Freeman 232). Premature babies are very weak and defenseless,
and need to be hospitalized. One reason for this is that a baby may become
startled into shock by a loud sound or even bright light. This occurs because
many babies have fully-developed senses and underdeveloped organs, which may
become a problem, since the brain may not be developed well enough to be able
to distinguish these different senses, which causes the baby to panic and lose
control of its actions.
The main underdeveloped parts of a premature baby are its organs,
chiefly the lungs and the brain. The lungs are developed in the last few weeks
of pregnancy, and if the child is born before the thirty sixth week, he/she may
require some special attention. Usually, the child is monitored closely for
the first few weeks of its life, in order to make sure there is no problems
with the breathing or any other function of its body. The premature baby will
probably need supplemental oxygen to help it through the early stages, but
rarely will it need an actual respirator or other life-supporting device on a
full-time twenty four hour basis. In fact, giving the baby too much oxygen may
complicate problems, such as damages to the eyes. This is caused by a over-
abundance of oxygen in the blood stream, which in turn causes the blood vessels
of the eye to expand, damaging the eye. This problem is one of the main
concerns when bearing a pre-term baby versus a full-term baby.
Another difference, probably the most noticeable one, is the size and
weight of the baby. A preemie will look thin and helpless, and will also have
transparent skin. Blood vessels, veins and bones are sometimes visible through
the skin of these babies. This is because the skin of a premature baby is very
fragile and tend...
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... eight to forty two
weeks, and must get rid of the children from the uterus in order to return the
body to normal and prevent any injuries from occurring inside the mother's womb.
Many advances are occurring everyday which enable mothers to feel safer
with the care of premature babies. New drugs are being developed and new
methods are being tested to ensure the security of a preemie, enabling the rate
of deaths and the rate of premature babies born to both be lowered. As
recently as 1986, premature babies had a much lower chance of survival, and
with the help of experts, this factor has been greatly reduced. Hopefully, by
the time our generation or our children's generation begins to think about
bearing children, there will not be much of a risk of having a premature baby.
Freeman, Roger, and Pescar, Susan. "Safe Delivery: Protecting Your Baby During
High-Risk Pregnancy. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982.
Golant, Susan and Ludington, Susan. Kangaroo Care The Best You Can Do To Help
Your Preterm Infant. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
Griesemer, Bernard and Pfister, Fred. The Littlest Baby. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-
Hall Inc., 1983.
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