What may happen if your baby is born this week
Babies born before 28 weeks are described as being extremely preterm. Approximately 7 in 10 babies will survive if they are born now. 1 in 7 babies born at this time will have a severe disability, such as cerebral palsy.
When talking about babies who have been born extremely prematurely, the term severe disability can include:
- not being able to walk or even get around independently (this includes conditions such as severe cerebral palsy)
- being unable to talk, or see or hear properly
- difficulties with swallowing or feeding safely
- having multiple health problems with frequent visits to hospital
- needing to attend separate school for children with special educational needs
- being unable to care for themselves or live independently as they grow up.
What does this mean for your baby?
Every baby is different and it is important to talk with your doctors and midwife. They will give you specific information about your own and your baby’s condition.
Research shows that for babies born before 27 weeks of gestation it is best, whenever possible, to be born in a specialist maternity unit with a specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. If you are in labour and are not at a hospital with these facilities, you may be taken to one as soon as possible. This is known as in utero transfer.
Babies born now will need help with their breathing. The medical team may put a breathing tube passed through their mouth or nose and into their lungs (known as intubation), which is connected to a machine called a ventilator. This machine does most or all of the breathing for the baby.
Some babies may not need a ventilator and instead they will have small prongs into their nostrils or a mask over their nose connected to a machine (called ‘CPAP) that provides air or oxygen with pressure to make the effort of breathing easier for them. Your baby will be given some medicine into their lungs, called surfactant, to help with their breathing.
The healthcare team will recommend caffeine treatment to help reduce or treat apnoea. Apnoea is a common condition where a baby may pause their breathing for a variable amount of time.
Babies born at this stage are at risk of hypothermia (an abnormally low body temperature). When they are born, they will be placed into a clear plastic bag up to their neck to help keep them warm and protect their fragile skin. On the neonatal unit, they will be placed in an incubator that is humidified to keep them warm.
They will need a thin tube passed through their nose or mouth into their tummy that milk can be given through. They will also need fluids or nutrition (a ‘drip’) through a thin tube into a vein (intravenous or IV line). This will often be into one of the veins in their umbilical cord. Find out more about feeding your premature baby in hospital.
Babies born now may have low blood pressure so the healthcare team may also need to raise your baby’s blood pressure with extra fluids or medicines.
Babies born now are also at risk of infection and will be given antibiotics until blood tests confirm they do not have an infection.
Your healthcare team will monitor your premature baby closely to make sure they receive the best possible care.
Some of this information may be difficult to read. If you have any questions about your pregnancy or risk of premature birth please talk to your doctor or midwife.
You can also call the Tommy’s midwives on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].