The term preterm baby refers to a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy.
With a preterm birth neither the baby nor the mother is prepared, it is a traumatic event that involves not only the baby but the entire family.
Not all preterm births are the same. Preterm babies are divided into 3 groups: extremely preterm (before the 28th week of pregnancy), moderately preterm (before the 32nd) and almost at term (between the 34th and 36th week). Obviously every day and week that the baby stays in the mother's womb is fundamental for the baby's development, and the care the newborns need will be different.
There are numerous causes of a preterm birth and sometimes are correlated. There are three groups of reasons: medical, accidental and environmental.
The medical reasons are mainly due to problems related to the uterus: uterine malformation, uterine distension (especially in the case of multiple pregnancies), neck of the uterus insufficiently closed, detachment of the placenta and placenta praevia can cause a premature delivery, as well as urinary infections, diabetes and listeriosis.
As concerns accidental causes, they are of course difficult to define, but it is clear that traumas such being violently struck in the abdomen, a fall or an emergency surgery can cause early birth.
Finally, there are environmental reasons: numerous studies have shown a direct relationship with difficult situations, such as the age of the mother (too young or too mature). A series of risks that increase the cases of babies born prematurely has been identified: working outdoors and in the open air, stairs, walking long distances, unusual strain, strenuous work, long trips. Naturally, the more factors that are involved, the greater the risk.
A preterm birth prevents many organs and systems from reaching physiological maturity and all the abilities necessary for facing the environment outside the uterus. Being born too early could involve an increased risk of organ dysfunction, possible respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, renal, ophthalmological, nutritional and immunological diseases. Today, however, it is possible to rely on the considerable knowledge of expert neonatologists, paediatric nurses specialised in neonatology, leading neonatal intensive care and pathology departments that are dedicated to these very small lives, to help them mature completely.
First of all, when discussing the growth and development of a baby born preterm, it is always a good idea to consider the difference between the correct age and the actual age, meaning the presumed due date and the actual date of birth, because this is important for many reasons. The younger the gestational age is, the more containment and care aspects will have to be implemented in the neonatal intensive therapy wards, from the first moments of life, in order to accompany and support their growth and to prevent some difficulties that could happen later.