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Health Complications in Premature Babies

Dr. Adeela Khan

2 min read

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When birth happens too soon usually before 37 weeks is considered as premature birth. Premature newborns are sometimes referred to as “preemies”. Mothers having such babies are often frightened and nervous.  Premature newborns face an increased risk of one or more complications. They may have more health complications and may also need to stay in the medical care centers longer than the normal babies. Premature birth is so common that it is estimated that each year about 1 in 10 babies have premature birth.

Prematurity can cause a number of health issues throughout the life of a premature baby. So, finding and treating health problems as early as possible does not only reduce the risk of further complications but also helps babies to lead a healthy normal life.

Brain issues:

Premature birth can lead to long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities among preemies. Thus affect brain badly slowing the overall physical growth. A prominent delay and trouble is seen among such babies in the following:

  • Physical development
  • Learning
  • Communicating with others

Some long-term disabilities include the following:

  • Behavior problems
  • Neurological disorders, like cerebral palsy, that affect the brain
  • Autism, a group of disorders that affect a child’s speech, social skills and behavior

Lungs and breathing problems:

A newborn can also have many breathing problems. When a preemie is born their lungs are not yet ready to breathe on their own. Consequently, may breathing problems may ensue.

Thus Prematurity can cause a baby to have lung and breathing problems, including:

  • Asthma, a common health condition caused by narrow airways.
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a condition in which the lungs grow abnormally or get inflamed.
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS )thatcauses harsh, irregular breathing and difficulties due to the lack of a specific agent (surfactant) in the lungs.

Other long term health problems in premature babies:

Premature birth can lead to these serious health issues:

Intestinal problems:

Intestinal problems ares caused by a disease that affects premature babies and is called necrotizing enterocolitis (also called NEC). It affects a baby’s intestines severely. Intestines help the body break down (digest) food. Some babies face these digestion problems earlier rather some experience it later in their life.


Premature babies are more likely to get infected soon as they are in contact with an infected one. It is because their immune systems are immature and resisting power against certain diseases is quite low. This can only be avoided by screening the visitors and parents for illness, practise good hand hygiene, keep medical instruments sterilized and encourage staff that is sick to stay home.

Eye problems:

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition that affects the development of the blood vessels of the retina. Being born early, particularly before 31 weeks or weighing under 1,250 grams (about two pounds, 12 ounces), as well as being on high amounts of oxygen for a prolonged period of time both put premature babies at risk of this condition.

Many will develop a mild form of the disease that will improve on its own. Preemies may go on to require glasses, which could be because of a mild form of ROP, or because premature babies are at a higher risk of refractive error, the condition that causes nearsightedness and farsightedness.

An ophthalmologist will screen your baby for eye disease and, if the condition has reached a more advanced stage, will recommend treatment, which could be in the form of laser surgery at a specialized facility.

There are also newer, injectable treatments that are sometimes used. This condition was much more common in the 1950s, when doctors more liberally gave oxygen to premature babies. If the condition is severe and left untreated, the retina could detach, leading to blindness, although this is now very rare in Canada.

Hearing disorders:

Hearing loss is also a common defect faced by the premature babies.

Dental issues:

Dental problems may occur in early born babies it includes delayed tooth growth, changes in tooth color or crooked teeth.

Inability to maintain body heat:

A premature baby has little body fat and immature skin, which make it harder for him to maintain body heat. Special care is required to fulfill the heat required by the body of a preemie.


This is a medical condition caused by abnormally low concentrations of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen. Preemies are at a high risk of having lower levels. If the anemia is severe, blood transfusion is usually recommended by the doctors.

Our medical health care team is always at your service in case of any complication. You need to talk to your baby’s health care provider about medical services and treatment your baby may need. Such babies need regular monitoring and treatment. You can book an appointment with top pediatricians from Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the Right Doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Adeela Khan - Author Dr. Adeela Khan is a Pediatrician. Dr. Adeela Khan is among the Best Pediatricians in Lahore. She has a M.B.B.S. and F.C.P.S. degree along with an experience of 6 years. She is also a member of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and its pmdc number is 56367-P.
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