Impact of Premature Birth on Development
Years ago, premature birth almost always meant death for the baby. Today, however, we have the technology to nurture these infants' development, and many of them survive to lead normal, healthy lives. Although, very premature infants (that is, those born before about the fifth month) are still not likely to survive, many born at five months and older will thrive. Some preterm babies, however, do have many obstacles to overcome. There are a variety of medical problems that affect some of them, they may have impaired mental or physical conditions, and they may be looked upon by others in their environment as slow, or they might be treated differently because they were premature. All of these factors, plus a few more that will be discussed, affect the development of preterm infants into their adolescent years, and sometimes beyond.
Many preterm babies are born with medical problems because they simply were not ready to come into the world yet. They will not have very developed primitive reflexes, and they may look a little strange, with translucent skin, misshapen ears, and fine hair covering their entire bodies. One of the biggest problems for premature infants is a condition called Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), in which the lungs do not produce enough surfactant, which is the substance that keeps the airsacs in the lungs from collapsing. If not treated in time, the infant's brain will become oxygen deprived, which would lead to death. It can cause some brain damage. Another condition that often affects premature babies is Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). This happens when the ductus arteriosus, which connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta, doesn't close, leading to the infant's blood not being properly oxgenated. This can also lead to brain damage if not caught in time. Premature infants also may just stop breathing, which is called apnea. This is why they must be closely monitored, for without...
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