Coping after the birth: one day at a time
If your baby is very small or unwell, you may be feeling exhausted, emotional and shaken. You may also be frightened about what the future holds for them, and for your family. The best thing you can do for your baby is to look after yourself and ask for help and support.
Stabilising your baby
If your baby is premature, the time for cuddles will come, but first of all they will need to see the medical team. As soon as your baby's are born, they will stabilise them which may mean they need to:
- resuscitate them if necessary, including clearing their airways to allow your baby to breathe, proper head positioning, provision of warmth, drying them, appropriate stimulation, and assessment of breathing, heart rate, and colour.
- for warmth they may place your baby on a heated trolley and put a little hat and warm blankets on them. If they're very tiny, they may zip them up in a plastic bag up to their neck.
- help them to breathe if they are having trouble: they may put an oxygen mask on them, or may blow oxygen into their lungs using the mask. They may need to have a breathing tube inserted into their windpipe to help them breathe. This tube can also be used to take any fluids out of the lungs, and to blow medication called surfactant into the lungs.
Helping your premature baby's heart beat
If your baby's heart rate is less than 100 beats per minute, they will be given additional oxygen, or fluids through a drip (a needle inserted into a vein).
If their heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute, the team will need to carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - pumping the chest to push blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They may also need to give them fluids and medication through a drip.
Your premature baby's Apgar score
Once your baby is stabilised, the healthcare team will give them a thorough physical examination to confirm their gestational age and identify of any potential problems.
Your newborn will get an Apgar score between zero and ten to assess their health. The system gives your baby a score of zero, one or two in five areas:
- heart rate
- muscle tone
- reflex (crying or moving away in response to stimulation)
- skin colour.
The total figure is added up to provide a maximum score of ten, although babies seldom get the top score.
Premature babies often have lower scores because three key factors - muscle tone, colour and reflex - depend on the baby's gestational age.
What happens next
If your baby was born in a hospital that has the facilities for all their needs, they will be moved to the baby unit. If they need specialist care that is not available in your hospital, they will be transferred to another hospital that has the facilities they need.Read about transferring your premature baby here, and in utero transfer.
The best thing you can do for your baby is to look after yourself. That way, you will be better equipped to handle the challenges that face you and your family.
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)/special care baby unit (SCBU)/neonatal unit becomes the centre of the universe for parents of premature babies, so it's important to familiarise yourself with the way it operates.
The first few days after giving birth to your premature baby can pass in a daze. Here's what to expect...
If your baby is very young and very sick, they may need to be transferred to another hospital with specialist facilities. This might be done before they are born or just afterwards.
Skin-to-skin contact with your premature baby is a wonderful way for you both to bond. It also provides health benefits.
The healthcare team will cater for your baby's medical needs, but they need you too. As you get to know your premature baby, you will begin to work out what they need.
Your premature baby's diet will be carefully balanced to suit their tiny digestive system while meeting the needs of their growing body.
Positioning your premature baby correctly can make them feel secure, improve their breathing ability, strengthen their muscles and reduce the risk of cot death.
You may be asked if you would consider taking part in research into premature birth. We explain what this might involve.
We answer some of your questions about your premature baby's time in the hospital and neonatal unit.
You're bound to feel anxious if your premature baby needs surgery, but try to focus on the positive: the operation is likely to help improve your baby's chances.
During their stay in the baby unit, your baby will have all kinds of checks to monitor their progress.
If your premature baby has any of the conditions below, ask the healthcare team to explain anything that you don’t understand.
Babies born prematurely are more likely to have problems with their eyesight and hearing, but in most cases treatment is successful.
Premature babies have less developed immune systems and are more susceptible to infection, but there are ways to reduce the risk.
It's worrying if you discover that your baby has a heart problem, but most defects are treatable and some do not even need treatment.
Many premature babies need help with breathing for a while. This is known as ventilation.
BMJ Best Practice (2011) Premature newborn care, treatment, step-by-step, http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/671/treatment/step-b...Hide details
ℹLast reviewed on July 1st, 2014. Next review date July 1st, 2017.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 19 Feb 2017 - 02:28
This is my grandson