What to know about premature births

Caring For Our Kids

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One in 10 babies is born too early in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Premature babies are at greater risk for death and long term health issues. While the cause is often unknown, there are steps that parents can take to reduce risks.

Dr. Malinda Harris, neonatologist at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital stopped by the WATE 6 On Your Side studios to share more about premature babies and health risks.

What is considered premature?

Premature birth is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

What kinds of care do premature newborns often require in the NICU?

Incubators provide warmth for babies who lack the body fat necessary to maintain their body temperature.

Preemies are at greater risk for infection so they must be kept in a sterile environment. Sometimes a feeding tube is required to provide a preemie nutrition and promote growth. Sometimes their lungs are not yet developed and they need help from breathing machines.

What are lifelong health issues associated with premature birth?

While some preemies go on to live normal, healthy lives, common health issues among preemies include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Blindness
  • Hearing loss

Can premature births be prevented?

Sometimes the cause is unknown – a mother who has done everything “right” in her pregnancy can still have a preemie, but there are ways to reduce the risk, such as:

  • Get prenatal care
  • Don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs while pregnant
  • If you are on prescribed medication – talk with your doctor before becoming pregnant
  • Don’t have an early, elected C-section

MORE HELPFUL TIPS | Caring For Our Kids

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