Who is a micro preemie? The miracle micro preemie babies are born months before their due date. They have a difficult start to life, one where they spend months in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and are closely monitored by medical staff, to increase the baby’s chance of survival since they’re very fragile and susceptible to illness.
Babies benefit greatly from each day that is spent inside the mother’s womb. Babies born post the 23rd week of gestation have higher chances of survival (up to 90%). Micro preemies are surprisingly small, with visible veins that look gelatinous, and almost translucent skin that looks extremely sensitive. The simplest indication of a micro preemie (apart from gestational age and size) is birth weight. Usually, micro preemie babies are 1 pound 12oz (800gms) or less.
What Is Life Like Inside The NICU?
There have been babies that have spent close to a year in neonatal care units. They may have harrowing early days, but they also recover and thrive exceptionally well in intensive care. Being in the NICU alongside your baby during difficult times can be scary. While your baby is fighting for life, you need to devote your focus, attention, and love toward the little soldier.
Listed below are 5 medical interventions your baby will receive during their stay in the NICU:
- Monitoring Equipment: Heart and breath rate monitor that are stuck to their chest, feet, wrists, arms and legs.
- Respiratory Support: The baby is usually connected to a ventilator through a tube that enters their mouth. Other babies that can breathe on their own have a CPAP mask strapped firmly to their nose.
- Intravenous Nutrition: In the first two weeks of life, IV is administered through the umbilical cord stump (umbilical lines). Once a baby’s immature digestive system has developed well, PICC is given.
- Peripheral Line: PICC involves a central catheter that is inside a vein near the heart delivers medication. It is inserted into the large vein of a baby’s arm or leg and the line is then guided upwards.
- NG/OG Tube: The baby will be fed from a tube that enters their mouth (OG Tube) or nose (NG Tube).
The duration of the stay in the NICU differs based on the medical condition of the micro preemie. The baby is closely monitored for several serious medical conditions that include:
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) – Breathing difficulties
- Patent ductus arterosus (PDA) – A connection between the large blood vessel near the heart is normal in a fetus, but should close once the baby is born to begin breathing. The connection is persistent in over half of the micro preemies.
- Sepsis: Some babies require antibiotics as their immune systems are immature.
- Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH)- About a quarter of micro preemies have fragile blood vessels in the brain that can rupture easily.
- Retinotherapy of Prematurity (ROP )- At birth, the blood vessels in a micro preemie’s (under 15%) eyes are not fully developed, and when they do, they develop rapidly enough to damage the retina.
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC )- In about 7% of micro preemies, the linings of the bowel, become infected as the intestines are still immature.
All of the above mentioned short-term health concerns will either resolve on their own or in severe cases, require surgery or medication. By at least 8 years of age, 60% of preemie kids have normal IQs. Unfortunately, some micro preemies have long-term effects of prematurity that include:
- Cognitive problems
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic lung disease
- Digestive problems
- Vision or hearing loss
If you’re worried about a premature delivery: Learn the indicators and prevention of preterm labor1, consult your healthcare provider to seek early intervention. Early prenatal care can help avoid an early delivery. Take a tour of the NICU and meet specialists at the hospital where you will deliver.
There is always light in even the darkest of times; persistent effort, love and care will go a long way. Read about the smiling preemie who went viral and gave all preemie parents a ray of hope2. On an extremely positive note, here3 is a list of the world’s smallest and youngest preemies that are healthy and flourishing.