Minimizing Brain Damage in Premature Infants

preterm birth complications

Premature babies face a number of risks due to complications.

Premature babies are born before the end of the 37-week gestation period. Premature birth is caused by a number of reasons, including negligence or mistakes made by medical professionals. Premature births can make mothers apprehensive and concerned about the health of their babies. Besides the anxiety that the parents go through, they also have to deal with the fear that their babies might not survive.

The Use of Erythropoietin Hormone (EPO)

Premature babies face a number of risks due to complications. One of these complications is brain damage that can occur because of immature lungs. Researchers are currently developing a hormone that can prevent brain damage in premature infants. The erythropoietin hormone (EPO) apparently encourages red blood cell production. Over 400 newborn babies were involved in the research. These babies were born between 26 to 31 weeks of pregnancy. The infants were given EPO by doctors, who monitored brain development. A 14 percent difference was noted among babies receiving the hormone treatment compared with the babies who were not given the EPO treatment.

Researchers revealed that it was the first time that the positive effects of this particular hormone on the brains of premature infants were demonstrated. Research leader Dr. Petra Huppi said the real test on the capability of EPO in protecting the brains of premature babies will be known once an evaluation is conducted on the babies when they become older.

Complications of Immature Lungs

The American Pregnancy Association revealed that the maturity period of the lungs of a fetus is normally 36 weeks. However, when it is essential to deliver the baby before the end of this period, the doctor may decide to use steroids to speed up the development of the lungs. Complications that can arise due to immature lungs include:

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome – Since immature lungs do not have the ability to prevent its collapse, the baby may find it hard to breathe. This condition may be managed using a ventilator or appropriate doses of certain medications.
  • Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia – A respirator is often used to treat immature lungs. However, bronchopulmonary dysplasia may develop if babies are placed on a respirator for an extended period of time since the lungs of the baby are incapable of dealing with continuous pressure. It may take a long time before babies can recover from this condition.
  • Transient Tachypnea – This condition is characterized by shallow and rapid breathing. It normally rectifies naturally after a few days. However, it may be necessary to provide intravenous feeding to the infant until the condition corrects itself.
  • Brain injuries – Lungs of a premature baby are not mature enough to allow sufficient amount of oxygen to travel through the bloodstream. Inadequate oxygen may result in incomplete development of the brain and cause long-term developmental problems.

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