SAN ANTONIO — Having a premature baby can be scary for any mother. In this Wear The Gown, we find out the best ways medical professionals help keep the mother and baby in the best health possible, before and after birth.
There are three categories of premature birth. Starting with late preterm which is any birth before 37 weeks, moderate preterm, and extreme prematurity which goes down to 23 weeks.
"Sometimes mom will have an infection. Dehydration. If she's had previous preterm deliveries. There are multiples like twins or triplets. Sometimes they're born early," said Monica Garza-Vickery who is a registered nurse in the newborn nursery at University Health. She says there are many risk factors. Garza-Vickery told us, "Their age sometimes can play a factor. Any moms that smoke during pregnancy, drug use, infections that they may have."
According to the CDC as of 2021 one out of every 10 infants born in the U.S. were premature. The rate of preterm birth among African-American women was near 15 percent, for Hispanic women near 10 percent, and for White women 9.5 percent. Here in Texas, the premature birth rate is higher than the rest of the country, with one out of every nine infants born prematurely.
Premature babies could have many extra medical needs including respiratory support. Garza-Vickery said, "Their breathing may need to be assisted by a machine, the ventilator, sometimes just an oxygen flow."
Also maintaining temperature. Garza-Vickery added, "A lot of the much smaller babies are going to be in the incubator. That way we can regulate their temperature and make sure that all their systems are functioning as well as possible."
Next is extra monitoring of heart issues. Garza-Vickery explained, "They can have heart issues because they hadn't had that time to develop properly."
Also nutrition, often given through IVs, and a condition called NEC. Garza-Vickery told us, "An issue with baby's intestines where they lose blood flow over time."
Bonding is still extremely important in preemies, which is why University Health focus on that in their Family Nutrure Care program. Garza-Vickery said, "The specialist will interact with the family and show them how to care for a baby and how to really bond and connect with them."
For more information about premature babies and University Health's NICU check out this link.