Updated April 2014, next review April 2017
Your premature baby - tests and immunisations
During his stay in the baby unit, your baby will have all kinds of checks to monitor his progress. Some are to investigate illness and see how he is developing, some are screening tests which check for certain conditions that benefit from being detected early in life, while others are needed to give your baby immediate care. Some tests will involve bloodspot tests, which are done by gently pricking your baby's heel and squeezing out a drop of blood.
Screening tests for premature babies
- hearing and vision tests
- tests to check blood group
- checking how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in the bloodstream to find out how well your baby’s lungs are developing and to check on how she is breathing and that the help that she is receiving with breathing is adequate
- tests to check levels of glucose, salts, calcium and other minerals, to ensure your baby is getting all the nutrition she needs
- check her levels of urea and electrolytes to find out how well her body is working
- tests to check bilirubin levels, which indicate jaundice
- ultrasound scans to check her brain, heart and other organs are developing properly.
The team will pull all these results together with information from:
- your history of previous pregnancies
- your blood type (see rhesus incompatibility)
- any problems that were identified during antenatal screening
- information about the birth, such as what form of anaesthetic you were given and whether your baby showed signs of distress during labour and delivery.
All this information put together will let the healthcare team looking after your baby if he needs other more specialist tests or other care.
Immunisation for your premature baby
It is very important that children follow the national immunisation programme. This ensures they get injections at certain points in babyhood and childhood to protect them from certain diseases that can be dangerous but which are preventable such as measles or some forms of meningitis. It also protects everyone else in society by reducing the amount of disease in the general population. You will receive letters in the post inviting to you to take your child along to the local health centre at the right time for each of the immunisations. If your child was very premature then the first immunisation will be offered while he is still on the neonatal unit because it should happen eight weeks after birth.
Your premature baby will need to receive vaccinations after birth at the same number of weeks / months after birth as a term baby – even though he will be developmentally younger – because he will be more at risk from disease than a term baby, as his immune system will be less mature.
In this section
Your baby's time in hospital:
You can also read about
The following organisations can give you more information about the topics covered in this section.
Macdonald S and Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, Fourteenth Edition, Edinburgh: Bailliere Tindall Elsevier
World Health Organisation (accessed 28 July 2014) Managing Newborn Problems, WHO, http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/9241546220/en/