50 Things You Didn’t Know About Prematurity

Yesterday was World Prematurity Day. I had this post almost ready to go, and one thing after another kept me from finishing! Such is life! Even though I missed posting on the 17th, prematurity awareness is still a relevant and important topic close to my heart! As I mentioned a few days ago, we are coming up on the 1-year anniversary of bringing home our 25-week micro-preemie, Harper Joy. While scanning articles to come up with this list, I was continually reminded of God’s grace in the life of our baby. There are so many complications that occur when a baby is born well before their due-date. And while I want this post to be largely informative, and encouraging, I simply cannot ignore the millions of babies who lose their life to premature birth every year.

My heart breaks for mother’s who have to experience the fear of going into labor too soon. My advice is to never live in fear of the worst while you are pregnant, but be vigilant in recognizing the signals your body is giving you. Although I was never put on bedrest, I felt tired. I knew something wasn’t right, and I should have rested. I don’t blame myself for delivering early (because that would be a waste of time). The reason for Harper’s prematurity is suspected to be caused by a placental abruption.

Long ago, I gave my children over to the Lord, to whom they belong and relinquished my control of their health and protection. This came as an important lesson after miscarrying my third baby at 12 weeks gestation. God created all my babies, and every baby there is and ever was, and He decides the span of their life and their purpose. Some babies are miscarried, some aborted, some abandoned, some sick, some healthy. They are all a gift. Choosing to see them as one, honors God and will bring tremendous blessing into your life. The blessing of children is not always joyful, but in fact often times hard and long-suffering, yet they remain blessings because…

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:1-8

This is by no means a comprehensive list on prematurity, but an overarching glance at some facts and figures surrounding premature birth. If you have been blessed with a preemie, no matter what the outcome, may you choose to view your experience as a gift and share your love and support with a NICU family that most certainly needs it now more than ever.

1. A micro-preemie is a baby born before 26 weeks gestation or weighs less than 1 pound.

2. A micro-preemie born at 2 pounds is approximately the same weight as a head of cauliflower.

3. A baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks gestation.

4. Twins are considered premature if born before 36 weeks gestation.

5. According to the CDC, 1 out of 10 babies born will be premature.

prematurity awareness

6. The average state laws for abortion make it illegal to abort a baby after the age of 22 weeks gestation.

7. From 22 weeks gestation until about 32 weeks, the baby feels pain more intensely than at any other time in development.

8. November is “Prematurity Awareness Month”.

9. November 17th is “World Prematurity Day”.

10. Purple is the color of prematurity awareness.

11. Preemies go by their “adjusted age” which is typically their original due date.

12. Low (under 17) or high (over 35) maternal age, being of black race, and low maternal income/socioeconomic status are factors that contribute to preterm birth.

13. Infection, carrying multiples, and high blood pressure are medical conditions that can contribute to preterm birth.

14. A mother who has had a previous preterm birth is more likely to have a preterm baby on her following pregnancies.

15. Tobacco and alcohol use, substance abuse, late prenatal care, and stress are behavioral issues that can contribute to preterm birth.

16. Women who use assisted reproductive technology of some kind are at a higher risk of preterm birth, mainly because they are more likely to be pregnant with more than one baby at a time.

17. Mothers who are predicated to deliver early are given a steroid shot in order to speed up the development of their baby’s lungs.

18. Signs of preterm labor may include contractions, pelvic pressure (the feeling that the baby is “pushing down”), dull backache, period-like cramps, or abdominal cramps.

19. The part of the hospital designated for premature babies is called the NICU. Pronounced NIC-Q, it’s abbreviation stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

20. Hospitals provide a range of NICU levels, level 4 being the highest level of care.

21. The doctors that care for premature babies are called “Neonatologists.”

22. Premature babies are often expected to go home from the NICU at or around their original due date.

23. Breastmilk is vital in the growth and development of premature babies – so much so that they are given milk from a donor if their birth mother is unable to provide it.

24. Preemie babies are many times unable to coordinate sucking, breathing, and swallowing which causes choking; because of this, they are frequently fed through an IV or feeding tube.

25. Moms and dads of preemies and micro-preemies are often allowed to hold their babies on their chests. This is referred to as skin-to-skin or kangaroo care.

Skin-to-Skin

26. The bed given to a critical preemie is also called an “isolette.”

27. Premature babies lack the body fat necessary to maintain their body temperature, even when swaddled with blankets. So incubators or radiant warmers are used to keep them warm in the NICU.

28. Graduating to a crib is a big step for preemies, as it means they are able to regulate their body temperature. This is an important step in moving from the NICU to home.

29. Short-term complications for preemies can include (but are not limited to) breathing problems, heart problems, brain hemorrhages, temperature control problems, anemia, jaundice, hypoglycemia, and an underdeveloped immune system.

30. Common NICU procedures include X-rays, ultrasounds, blood and urine tests, procedures to measure fluids (i.e. urine output or amount of blood taken for testing), and blood transfusions.

31. Premature babies are at risk of oxygen desaturation or “D-Sat”, a condition where rate of oxygen in the blood drops. Crying, squirming, or apnea/uneven breathing can cause rapid oxygen desaturation.

32. Bradycarida or “Brady” (a slower than normal heartbeat) is common in premature babies.

33. Preemie babies are bathed in what is called a “swaddle bath”.

34. Phototherapy is commonly used with preemies, as it helps the baby deal with jaundice and elevated bilirubin levels (this is why you frequently see pictures of preemies under blue lights).

prematurity awareness35. Preemie babies have a tendency to extend their body into a stiff standing position because of their development in a bed rather than in fetal position in the womb.

36. Premature babies are too immature to feed directly from the breast or bottle until they’re 32 to 34 weeks gestational age. Breastmilk can be pumped by the mother and fed to the premature baby through a tube that goes from the baby’s nose or mouth into the stomach. 

NICU

37.15 million babies are born too soon every year.

38. Premature babies begin to have their eyes checked by a Pediatric Ophthalmologist soon after their birth to check for the development of retinopathy of prematurity (known as ROP), a condition that can lead to retinal detachment.

39. Amillia Taylor is considered the earliest baby born to survive, arriving at 21 weeks, 6 days gestation.

40. Famous preemies include: Stevie Wonder Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Winston Churchill, Mark Twain.

41. Famous mothers who have given birth to preemies include: Julia Roberts, Kim Kardashian, Anna Faris, and Faith Hill.

42. Women who have very closely spaced pregnancies (within 6 months of a previous live birth or pregnancy) are more likely to have preterm or low-birthweight babies.

43. Snoedel dolls are specially designed dolls, made to absorb a mother or father’s scent; these are then placed with the infants to help improve sleep, aid in bonding, and soothe the infant.

44. Long-term complications for preemies can include (but are not limited to) cerebral palsy, impaired cognitive skills/developmental delays, vision issues, hearing loss, dental issues, behavioral or psychological problems (including ADHD), asthma, chronic infections, and feeding problems.

45. Most premature babies catch up with their full-term counterparts within the first year or two.

46. Parents of preemies are forced to become advocates for their child very early on. It is vital that parents prepare themselves to properly care for their child – not only as soon as they are born, but into the future as well. Learning as much as possible about their child’s needs, reading and researching, can help parents better care for their preemie.

47. The March of Dimes is an organization that raises the awareness of premature babies. To learn more about their life-saving mission and work, check out: http://www.marchofdimes.org.

48. Thousands of premature babies lives were saved in the early 20th century by Dr. Martin Couney, a pioneer in the use of incubators who sought acceptance for the technology by showing it off on carnival midways alongside freak shows and fan dancers.

49. 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely.

50. My very own Harper Joy was born a micro-preemie at 25 weeks gestation, weighing just 2 lbs! She is now 16 months old and no longer suffers any of the above mentioned side effects other than being small for her age 🙂

Preemie 25 weeks

Follow me on Instagram to see Harper’s continued progress!

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About Laurie

I'm a Child of God, wife, mother of 4, wellness advocate and writer. This blog is a journal of my days, a collection of my recipes and crafts, and hopefully, a platform for all families to share their ideas, encouragement, inspiration and advice! I'm striving to "bloom where I am planted". Don't wait until things are "perfect" to begin sharing your gifts. We are all part of one giant puzzle—don't be a missing piece!