Your baby's time in hospital
Babies born prematurely often need to spend more time in hospital than would term babies. Some preterm babies are put in an incubator which mimics the conditions of the womb to help them continue developing while getting help to breath.
While your baby is in hospital – whether the stay lasts for days, weeks or even months – much of your life is likely to revolve around the pre-term unit. Precisely how long this goes on for will depend on baby's gestational age, how developed it is and whether it has health problems.
After the initial shock of seeing your baby in the unit, you will become more familiar with the hospital environment, and will gradually understand how the baby unit works.
You may continue to feel very upset and anxious about your baby, but over time you will gradually adapt to your new circumstances and start to focus on developing your own vital role in supporting your baby's care.
Whatever your premature baby's birth was like, it will have taken a lot out of you, so try to rest and gather your strength for the days ahead.
If your baby is very small or unwell, you may be feeling exhausted, emotional and shaken. You may also be frightened about what the future holds for the baby, and for your family. The best thing you can do for your baby is to look after yourself and ask for help and support.
As soon as a premature baby is born the medical team will do some or all of the following to stabilise it
- Resuscitation , including clearing airways to allow baby to breathe, proper head positioning, provision of warmth, drying , appropriate stimulation, and assessment of breathing, heart rate, and colour. If his heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute, the team will need to carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - pumping the chest to push blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They may also need to give him fluids and medication through a drip.
- For warmth they may place baby on a heated trolley and put a little hat and warm blankets on her. If she is very tiny, they may zip her up in a plastic bag up to her neck.
- Help him to breathe if he is having trouble: they may put an oxygen mask on him, or may blow oxygen into his lungs using the mask. He may need to have a breathing tube inserted into his windpipe to help him breathe. This tube can also be used to take any fluids out of the lungs, and to blow medication called surfactant into the lungs.
If your baby's heart rate is less than 100 beats per minute, she will be given additional oxygen, or fluids through a drip (a needle inserted into a vein).
Premature babies often have lower scores because three key factors - muscle tone, colour.