For parents expecting a new baby, the anticipation can be very exciting, but when the baby arrives too early, it can cause worry and fear. Here is some information to help prepare you and ease your anxiety should you find yourself in this position.
What to Expect
Preterm babies, or preemies, are babies born before the 37-week mark or 3+ weeks before the mother’s due date. Preemie babies can face health problems associated with their preterm status. While these differ for each baby, in general the earlier or smaller a baby is, the greater the medical concern. Some common issues include difficulty breathing, digestive struggles, infection, and heart problems. However, many preemies do not have any serious health issues at all, and just require a little extra monitoring.
Many preemies need to spend at least some time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Here are a couple of things to know about the NICU:
- Disconnectedness – Many parents express feeling disconnected from their babies because they are unable to touch, hold, or feed their babies. Feel the freedom to talk to your doctors and nurses about how you can be involved during this time. Frequently, the medical staff can help you hold or feed your baby or help you take an active role in some of the everyday care, which will help you feel more connected to what is going on.
- Schedule – The NICU staff operates on a schedule, and knowing this schedule will be helpful in planning your time with your baby-when is she awake, when is she sleeping, when are feedings, etc. Get a copy of the schedule early, and plan quality time with your baby.
The medical staff is there to care for the parents as well as the preemie, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or express concerns; they are trained to help. It is also possible that you may benefit from therapy afterwards. Parents of preemies, especially of babies who spent time in the NICU or struggled with significant health issues, have experienced heightened emotions that can leave a lasting impression. Some parents describe feelings similar to that of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or feeling emotionally unstable. You shouldn’t feel alone in these difficult times.
The doctors at The Woman’s Clinic can help you navigate what to do next including recommending a therapist or support group.