Health Problems in Premature Babies

Premature babies, our little darlings, have more health problems than other newborns, as they spend the time they should be in the mother’s womb outside. However, there is no rule that these health problems in babies born prematurely will occur in every premature baby.

What are the health issues that every premature baby mother should know about but not panic about?

breathing problems

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)

This complication, which is respiratory distress syndrome, can cause other undeveloped organs in their bodies to not receive enough oxygen in some premature babies. It is due to the fact that a substance called sulphate (surfactant) is not formed in the lungs of the baby, which ensures the development of the lungs.

This disease is mostly seen in premature babies born before the 35th week . If your baby has this problem, he or she is probably wheezing, making a lamb-like or slightly screeching sound.

bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Especially 23-32. Lung disease seen in premature babies born between weeks

It is manifested by rapid breathing, wheezing, coughing, purplish lips and fingernails. Oxygen and drug therapy are administered for a long time according to the doctor’s decision.

Apnea and bradycardia

Apnea is the cessation of breathing for more than 20 seconds. It is especially seen in babies born before 34 weeks . It usually disappears spontaneously with the development of the respiratory center.

Often, apnea is accompanied by a decrease in heart rate. A decrease in heart rate below 80 beats per minute is called bradycardia.

Chronic lung disease (BPD)

Oxygen given to premature babies for a long time can cause damage to the lung tissue and airways. The growth rate of these little ones can be slow, they need to be followed.

heart problems

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

It occurs when the vessel providing the connection between the aorta and the lung in the circulation before birth closes spontaneously, usually 72 hours after birth. In premature babies, if this opening does not close and problems occur, drug therapy may be required, and in advanced cases, surgery may be required.

It is usually seen in premature babies born before the 30th week . If left untreated, it can cause too much blood to circulate in the lungs and cause complications such as heart failure.

Another possible problem is hypotension.

brain problems

Brain damage (Periventricular leukomalacia-PVL)

Brain damage can occur either at birth or after birth, due to reduced blood flow and oxygen. The spaces where the brain fluid circulates and the surrounding brain tissue soften, may be injured or a cyst may form. The reason all this happens is because the tissues die.

After 3-4 weeks, the diagnosis is made by USG (taking a picture of the brain using sound waves). Babies with this problem may experience problems in their perception and movement systems in their future lives.

From physical therapists to child developers; Collaborative follow-up/treatment is required against conditions such as attention problems, learning and hyperactivity disorders.

Intra-cerebral hemorrhage (Intraventricular hemorrhage-IVK)

Bleeding may occur due to insufficient development of brain tissue and vessels. It is usually seen in preterms before 28 weeks and under 1200 grams (in babies with low birth weight).

Most bleeding occurs within 1 week of delivery. 15-20% of premature babies have this problem.

Premature babies with cerebral hemorrhage;

  • stiffness in the muscles,
  • difficulty walking,
  • 3-4. unresponsiveness to sound in months,
  • 8-9. inability to make a sound for months,
  • 13-14. They may experience problems of not being able to say any words for months.

In addition, frequent convulsions, hearing and vision loss can also be seen. Therefore, their mental and physical development should be closely monitored.


A serious injury due to intracerebral hemorrhage. It can be seen in 10-15% of babies who have had a brain hemorrhage. The baby’s head grows larger than normal because of the fluid accumulating in his brain. The method of treatment is surgery.

Gastrointestinal problems

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Damage to cells in the intestinal wall. Since the intestine is not fully mature, the inability to digest foods may be due to insufficient oxygen supply to the tissues. It appears after babies start feeding. It is less likely to occur in babies who are exclusively breastfed.

If such a problem occurs in the baby, oral feeding is stopped and intravenous feeding is started. Resting the bowels usually works, but surgery may be necessary if the bowel wall has been perforated.

gastroesophageal reflux

Reflux is a very common problem in premature babies. In parallel with the growth of the baby, the problem is expected to be alleviated with the correct feeding position, treatment and care practices. The way to prevent vomiting is to feed little by little, often and keep the baby at a right angle.

umbilical hernias

A hernia is when a part of the intestine protrudes through a weakened muscle or any opening. Hernia risk is also high in premature babies.

blood problems

anemia (anemia)

Newborns have a shorter lifespan than adults. Therefore, red blood cell production is slower. In addition, there is a need for a hormone called EPO, which stimulates the production of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. When premature babies are born, the amount of EPO decreases slightly, so blood production slows down.

In addition, frequent blood draws also trigger anemia in babies born prematurely. Mild anemia is not much of a problem, but in severe anemia, there may be a risk of heart and respiratory failure. For treatment, some babies are given EPO in the hospital, and if it is insufficient, blood transfusions are performed.


Neonatal jaundice is a condition that most term babies experience. It is more common in premature babies born before 38 weeks. Light therapy (phototherapy) is effective.

The reason for jaundice in newborn babies is that the blood cell counts of the little ones are very high and their skin is thin.

metabolism problems


Low blood sugar (glucose) level. Premature babies have a difficult time producing glucose because their livers are not sufficiently developed. For treatment, dextrose (sugar) is given through breast milk, formula or intravenously.


In the last 3 months of pregnancy, antibodies are secreted that are passed from mother to baby and protect the baby against infections. Premature babies are more susceptible to infections because they are deprived of these antibodies. In addition, since the length of stay in the hospital is long, the probability of getting an infection is high.

The presence of infection is diagnosed by taking blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Depending on the week of birth and weight, antibiotic treatment can be started. Washing your hands frequently is very important to protect your premature baby from infection.

vision problems

ROP (Retinopathy of prematurity)

Premature babies are born before the eye vessels are fully developed. The presence of vascularization, swelling and enlargement of the retina is called ROP disease (retinopathy of prematurity). For the treatment of this disease, which regresses 80% spontaneously, needle injection, laser or surgical intervention methods are applied.

Strabismus and myopia are also eye problems that are more likely to be seen in preterm babies.

hearing problems

More or less hearing loss can be seen in most babies born prematurely. If an abnormality is found on a hearing screening before you leave the hospital, be sure to do your best for follow-up tests and treatment. It is very important for language and communication skills.

dental problems

The probability of problems such as delayed teething, crooked teeth and discoloration of teeth is also higher than term babies.

Sudden infant death (SIDS)

The main reason for sudden infant death, which may have many causes and the cause of which is not clear according to some experts, is still shown as lack of oxygen. Causes such as brain anomalies, respiratory problems, low birth weight make sudden infant death a greater risk for premature babies.

Keep in mind that when you are discharged from the hospital and come home, laying your baby on your back is very effective in reducing this risk.

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