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Introduction to Premature Babies

All About Preemies From Conception to Hospital Discharge

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Updated September 22, 2013

Congratulations on the birth of your baby! Whether your baby was born early due to preterm labor or because of health problems that made pregnancy dangerous for you or your baby, your tiny bundle of joy is here now. Most likely your birth experience was nothing like you planned and you're feeling a lot of emotions. I'm here to help you sort through those emotions and learn what to expect as your premature baby grows and develops.

1. Understanding Your Emotions

A mom holding her premature baby skin-to-skin.
Image courtesy of Dino Abatzidis
There are many emotions that parents may feel after having a premature baby. No emotion is right or wrong, and it's normal to feel overwhelming joy and incredible anger or sadness all at the same time. Premature birth is a traumatic experience for a family, and it's OK to allow yourself to cry, laugh, scream, pray, and cope with your emotions however you can.

2. Settling Into the NICU

A cardiorespiratory monitor for a premature baby.
Image © Jill Norburn
As you start to understand and work through your emotions, you'll start getting to know the NICU environment. Depending on how early your baby was, he or she may be in the NICU for a few days or a few months. Learning what NICU life is like and getting to know the doctors and nurses will help you to ease in to your most important role as an advocate for your baby.

3. Health Concerns For Your Premature Baby

A premature baby on a ventilator.
Image copyright David Joel / Getty Images
Many preemies are healthy from birth and need NICU care only long enough to grow big and strong. Premature babies are all immature at birth though, and even babies who are born only a few weeks early are at risk for a number of health problems. In general, the earliest babies are at risk for the largest number of health problems.

4. Bringing Your Premature Baby Home From the NICU

A baby in a car seat.
Image copyright Elke Van de Velde / Getty Images
It's finally NICU discharge day! Bringing your premature baby home is an important milestone. Whether you're overjoyed or terrified, you're not alone. Taking care of a premature baby is a little different from taking care of a full term baby, so learn all you can while your baby is still in the NICU.

5. Preventing Future Premature Births

A mom in premature labor.
Image courtesy sot / Getty Images
If you've had a premature baby, you may be nervous or even terrified at the thought that another pregnancy will bring another preterm birth. Learning the risk factors and what doctors can do to prevent another premature birth will help you make an informed decision when planning another pregnancy.

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