Q&A: Premature Baby Risks

woman showing her baby bumpQ:
What is my baby at risk for if he or she is born prematurely?

A: A preterm infant is any infant born before 37 weeks duration of pregnancy.  The more premature the infant is the more complications he/she may face including death.  Below is a list of some of the more frequent and serious risks a preterm infant may experience:

1.  Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) – this is due to immature lungs.  We can give surfactants to help replace the substances missing in the lung that may help the infants to breath more effectively and hopefully decrease the length of time they will need to be on the ventilator or receiving oxygen.

2.  Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) – this is the persistence of a vascular structure in the circulatory system that is designed to function in the fetus while he/she is still in the uterus.  When it remains open after the infant is born it can cause blood overload to the infant’s heart.  This can be seen frequently in premature infants because the structure was meant to still be open and may not close spontaneously as it would in a full term infant.  Treatment of the PDA can be done with medicine, but if that fails may require surgery.