Managing Risks for Premature Babies

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Lee Health
Published at : 05 Dec 2020
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Nearly 10 percent of newborns require intensive care services for the first few weeks of life. Many newborns at the Golisano Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit are born premature. While most are able to go home after a few weeks, health experts say, the babies are at a higher risk for developing disabilities.

Sheri Campbell, a nurse practitioner with Golisano Children’s Hospital, says premature births are more common than people realize. She says a baby is considered premature if its born at 37 weeks. A full term pregnancy is 40 weeks. “The brain is out of the womb earlier than it should be and it’s exposed to a lot of stimuli, lights, noise, it has to input touch and different senses that it smells that it really shouldn’t have to deal with at the time.”

She says that’s why the NICU is kept dark and quiet. Visitors are often limited as well to protect the baby from too much exposure. “It’s exposed to toxins, such as breakdown from fluid and food and none of that should be available at that time” said Campbell. “Because of those exposures, the babies are at risk for intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.”

A premature newborn typically stays in the NICU until its original due date. Health experts say, even after the baby is able to go home the baby is still at risk for developing disabilities like hearing and visual problems, ADHD and learning disabilities.

“What we do try to do here in our clinic is be very progressive and if we do see anything that might lead to clumsiness or difficulties with sensory issues we get physical therapy, or occupational therapy or speech therapy, because we know the brain is what they call plastic for the first few years of life where the brain can really rewire basically, re-circuit and babies can overcome quite dramatic things” said Campbell.

It’s important the baby stay close with its pediatrician during the first three years of life. Campbell says with early intervention and appropriate therapy, most premature babies are able to live a happy, healthy life.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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