Premature birth has several causes, although in half of all cases, no cause has been determined. In some cases, premature birth is caused by the body’s response to certain infections, such as those involving amniotic fluid and fetal membranes. In other cases, prematurity is caused by early induction because of health problems in the mother or fetus.
Women with the greatest risk of delivering prematurely are those who have had previous premature birth, those pregnant with twins, triplets or more and women with uterine or cervical abnormalities.
Lifestyle can also be a factor in premature birth. Women who don’t get prenatal care are at greater risk, as are women who smoke, drink or use illegal drugs. Domestic violence has also been cited as a cause of premature birth.
Medical conditions can also lead to premature babies, including infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and clotting disorders.
Most babies admitted to the NICU are premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), have low birthweight (less than 5.5 pounds), or have a medical condition that requires special care. Twins, triplets, and other multiples often are admitted to the NICU, as they tend to be born earlier and smaller than single birth babies. Babies with medical conditions such as heart problems, infections, or birth defects are also cared for in the NICU.
This is a breathing disorder in premature babies that is caused by lack of surfactant. Surfactant is a mixture of protein and fat that coats the air sacs in the lungs to keep them from collapsingThis is a breathing disorder in premature babies that is caused by lack of surfactant. Surfactant is a mixture of protein and fat that coats the air sacs in the lungs to keep them from collapsing. Some premature babies are unable to make surfactant in the first few days of life. Some premature babies are unable to make surfactant in the first few days of life.
The term refers to "apnea and bradycardia." Apnea occurs when the premature baby stops breathing for a short periods of time due to an immature breathing center in the brain. Apnea is often accompanied by a slower-than-normal heart rate (bradycardia). Apnea is treated with caffeine until the baby matures.
We strongly encourage feeding with breast milk, however, depending on the degree of prematurity, the infant may not be strong enough to breast-feed immediately. Some premature babies (babies born after less than 34 weeks of gestation) cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing and require tube feeding. We encourage you to start pumping the breasts as soon as possible after birth. We will give the breast milk via a tube inserted directly in the stomach until the baby is able to nurse directly from the breast.
We will follow the infant’s cues and offer the child an increasing amount of time at breast as the infant grows. We have a lactation consultant on staff who can help you gain these skills.
Kangaroo care is a type of therapy in which there is skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby. In this treatment, your baby is held upright against your bare chest for at least one hour. There are many benefits to this novel type of therapy, including potentially decreasing the time your baby stays in the hospital, helping your baby maintain more regular breathing and lowered heart rates and enabling direct bonding between you and your baby.
Family-centered care is a type of patient care in which our healthcare team provides care for an entire family. We are available to answer all of your questions and help with any concerns you may have during your baby’s stay at UC Irvine Medical Center's NICU.