WATE 6 On Your Side staff - KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) -- Around 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States, according to the March of Dimes.
The cause of premature birth is often unknown, however, there are steps mothers can take to reduce the risk.
East Tennessee Children's Hospital nurse Allison Armstrong says premature birth happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Preemies often require treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU):
- Incubators can provide warmth for babies who lack body fat necessary to maintain their body temperature.
- A sterile environment helps the baby not be at risk for an infection.
- Feeding tubes can provide nutrition and promote growth.
- Breathing machines may be used if a baby's lungs are not developed.
A preemie may have lifelong health issues:
- Cerebral palsy
- Intellectual disabilities
- Chronic lung disease
- Hearing loss
Mothers can try to prevent premature birth by:
- Getting prenatal care
- Not drinking, smoking or doing drugs
- Mothers should talk to their doctors before becoming pregnant if they are on prescribed medication.
- Deciding to not have an early, elected C-section