Learn All About Premature Babies From This Australian Premmie

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In Australia, 1 in 10 children is born before the 37 week gestation period. About 15% of these children require care after their births. While the statistics look small to most of us, they’re staggering in the eyes of medical professionals. Compared to years ago, premature babies have a high chance of surviving and living productive lives. While it’s unpredictable to what the effects of being premature might be, there is a chance the child will grow up without health issues.

What Is A Premature Birth? Birth Weight, Born During Preterm And Complications

A premature birth can occur anywhere from 37 weeks or under. The reason children are born preterm is unknown. However, there are a number of facts a parent, first time or otherwise, needs to take into account premature birth could just happen to their child. Yes, it might appear a scary thought if you’ve done the research. There is nothing to fear if a child is born prematurely. Hospitals today are equipped to handle any premature birth, they are faced with.

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According to the recent The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s Mother, and Babies report, 1 in 16 liveborn children weighs less than the required birth weight. Furthermore, the birth weight of a newborn contrasts with his/her chances of survival. A normal birth weight is anywhere between 2,500grams (2.5kilograms) and 4,499grams (roughly 4.5kilograms). An underweight newborn is less than 2,500 (again, 2.5kilograms).

Moreover, the results from the Mothers and Babies report reveal in 2014, 307,844 women in Australia gave birth to approximately 312,548 babies. Of those babies, 8.6% were born before the 37-weeks period. The majority of the births during this period took place during the 37–40 weeks gestation. In 2014 alone, there were 26, 835 babies born during preterm.

Every pregnancy runs the risk of ending in premature labour. Mothers carrying twins or triplets may experience premature labour instead of entering natural labour. Risks include:
 • Smoking, using alcohol and/or drugs while pregnant
 • Pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia, placenta previa (these affect a baby’s growth and oxygen)
 • Infections of the uterine and/or vagina
 • Multiple pregnancies including more than one child
 • Preterm labour during previous pregnancy
 • Gum disease
 • Maternal age
 • High levels of stress

Survival Rates For Premature Bubs

As the years have passed, the survival rate for premature babies has risen. However, there are certain factors when it comes to knowing the survival rates of premature babies. Factors to take into account include the following:
 • Gestational age at birth
 • Baby’s weight
 • Complications
 • Condition at birth
 • Pregnancy with multiple babies

According to research, if a child is born before 23 weeks, their chances of survival sit at 30%.

Survival rates for premature babies [credit: lil aussie prems]

Therefore, with each week that passes the chances of survival increases tenfold, giving the child a better chance of survival. Unfortunately, despite the technology now in place to save premmies, premature birth can lead to early death — death within the first month of life.

Signs And How To Manage Them

Every pregnancy runs the risk of the child being born premature. There are signs the parents-to-be, especially the mother needs to watch out for. If these signs become apparent, call the assigned doctor or midwife. Symptoms include:
 • Changes in Vaginal Discharge
 • Pressure Increasing on the Vagina or Pelvis
 • Contractions every 10 minutes or less; these can feel similar to period pain or stomach bug cramps
 • Back pain in lower back; while this is a regular pregnancy symptom, the pain will be constant and refuses to go away
 • Spotting or bleeding

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When contractions come into play, it is important not to confuse them with Braxton Hicks contractions. Mothers need to know these are practice contractions the body uses to prepare itself for the real deal.

Use a pad — never use a tampon — if it’s believed the waters have broken. It’s best to smell the liquid, it may be amniotic fluid. However, if the smell is urine, it may be a leaky bladder.

What To Expect

If the mother suspects they’re in premature labour, don’t hesitate to go to the hospital. The doctor will proceed in checking the heart rate of the baby and check for any signs of distress. Other symptoms, the doctor will check for is contractions. An ultrasound will monitor the growth and size of the baby. Amniotic fluid levels will get checked as well.

An examination will be performed on the vagina to check for ruptured membranes. Checks of the cervix see if it has started to efface or dilate. A swab will taken to check for infection. If there’s no sign of labour, the mother will get sent home to rest. Though, there is no guarantee it will prevent premature labour.

If premature labour is imminent, the mother remains in hospital. The mother’s doctor may delay the labour or allow it to continue. Keeping the baby in the womb increases the chances it has for survival and lowers the chance of the child having complications.

Managing Premature Labour And Treatment

For any case of premature labour, the first thing the doctor will do in most cases is delay the labour. This case comes if the mother is 34 weeks or less into the pregnancy. The doctor will decide on what to do for treatment. The child will be monitored along with its heart rate. The doctor will also check and measure contractions. The mother will have an IV (intravenous) line inserted in order to receive fluids and medications.

If necessary, antibiotics will serve only as a preventative measure if an infection occurs. After 35 weeks, it is essential mothers-to-be get tested for Group B Step. If tested as positive, IV antibiotics are the key to stopping the bacteria from spreading to the baby.

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There are numerous ways to delay premature labour. Medication is usually the key. They stop contractions and relax the uterine muscles. These medications include:
 • Magnesium Sulfate
 • Nifedipine
 • Terbutaline
 • Indomethacin

If the labour cannot be delayed for a couple of days, the doctor will prescribe steroids to assist in speeding the development of the baby’s lungs up. The steroids assist in creating surfactant and helps the sacs in the baby’s lungs inflate.

Entering Premature Labour

When something unexpected happens for the first time, it can come off as a shock. At least 30% of the time, premature labour will stop on its own. Meanwhile a further 10% of women will give birth within a week of going into premature labour.

Many mothers assume if they enter premature labour they have to give birth via C-section. This is. in fact, false. Even with premature labour, it is still possible to give birth naturally (a vaginal birth). However, if the mother’s health or the child’s health is at risk, a c-section is the best bet as it is safer for the child and his/her mother.

What Happens After Birth

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If a child is born from 34 weeks to 37 weeks and over they tend to thrive and may need a little or no medical attention. They require a lot of skin to skin contact which assists the child in bonding with their mother and fast tracks his/her development. Skin on skin contact between mother and child is called ‘kangaroo care’.

A baby born before 34 weeks will require special care. After birth, these babies go to the NICU. This might seem upsetting for any parent, especially when the parent will be able to see their baby briefly after the birth. Sometime after this period, parents can visit their child in the NICU.

Preventing Premature Labour

It has been unknown for years as to what causes premature labour. However, there are ways of reducing the risk of it occurring.
 • Have excellent quality antenatal care
 • Before and after getting pregnant, be as healthy as possible
 • If the mother had been pregnant before and previously entered premature labour before 37 weeks, they may need to take a progesterone supplement to prevent premature labour
 • Avoid stressful situations
 • Stop bad habits

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According to a review in The Cochrane Library, any woman who has the same midwife during pregnancy and labour, are 23% unlikely to give birth to a premature child to women who have more. Don’t forget the doctor and the hospital staff are there as support.

Difficulties And How Premmies Overcome Them

Like any birth, premature babies may develop difficulties later in life. Children born premature can endure respiratory hardships as well as emotional development struggles. A mother of a child who was born premature had this to say:

“Being confident in reading your baby helps you avoid overprotecting your premmie. Amy gets that she is smaller and weaker than others, but she doesn’t need me hovering over her. If you stand back and stop your natural instinct to interfere, you find that kids are far more naturally capable than we allow.”

The best thing for a premature child’s development is to provide a safe and loving home.

If a child has some kind of developmental delay, try a couple of these ideas:
 • Read to child as often as possible
 • Allow the child to move around and engage in some sort of physical activity like outdoor play
 • Breastfeeding
 • Allow child to become attached to one adult
 • Make sure the child gets plenty of sleep


Having a child can be the best part of a woman’s life. It can also become scary if premature labour becomes involved. While the idea of premature labour is confronting to some, its essential parents know the facts about what could happen if it happens to them. Seeking support is also the best way to understand what your child needs in order for them to live a healthy life. In conclusion, it is this writer’s hope that this article was constructive as it was useful.