Premature Babies and their Health problems

Updated at: Oct 31, 2011
Premature Babies and their Health problems

Newborn Care- Premature babies are at risk of health problems such as respiratory problems, anaemia, hyper bilirubinemia and necrotizing enterocolitis.

Bushra Kafeel
Newborn CareWritten by: Bushra KafeelPublished at: Oct 31, 2011

Babies born after 42 complete weeks are known as full term babies. However, babies born before 37 weeks are termed as premature babies.


  • 70 percent of premature babies are born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.
  • 12 percent of premature babies are born between 32 and 33 weeks gestation.
  • 10 percent between 28 and 31 weeks.
  • Approximately 6 percent are born in less than 28 weeks gestation.

All the premature babies are at some or the other health risk but the earlier the baby is born greater is the risk. Some of the health risks to premature babies include:


Respiratory Problems

Lungs are amongst the last things that develop in unborn baby. Therefore breathing problems are common in premature babies. Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is caused due to surfactant deficiency. Surfactant is an important substance in lung that helps to open air sac and facilitate easy breathing.  RDS is more severe in extremely premature babies.



Prematurity can lead to low production of red blood cells. Red blood cells have an important work of carrying oxygen to different body parts. Anaemic baby may also have trouble in oxygenating the body tissues. Insufficient amount of red blood cells and iron stores can lead to anaemia. The problem gets complicated as frequently laboratory test reduces the amount of blood present in body. Dietary iron supplements and blood transfusion can help in this condition.

Hyper Bilirubinemia

Organ functions of premature babies are not up to mark. Immature organ function can lead to hyper bilirubinemia in them. On an average 80 percent of premature babies develop this condition.

Liver of premature babies is not fully developed so is unable to excrete adequate amount of bilirubin. This leads to high blood level and contribute to health ailments. Hyperbilirubinemia leads to jaundice (yellow-colour tinge to the skin and eyes). In addition uncontrolled bilirubin levels can even cause brain damage.

Phototherapy is one of the effective treatments of hyperbilirubinemia. It reduces the level of bilirubin in bloodstream. Depending upon the severity of condition your physician can even suggest for blood transfusion wherein, baby’s blood is replaced with new blood.


Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a medical condition primarily seen in premature babies. It occurs when wall of intestinal tissues die and tissue starts to fall off. Some of its symptoms include abdominal distention, blood in the stool, diarrhea, feeding intolerance, lethargy, temperature instability and vomiting.


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