Intestines: Accustomed to receiving nutrition from the placenta via the umbilical cord, premature babies’ digestive systems are not ready to process food. Newborns can develop an inflammation of the lining of the intestines or more severe infections.
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) can result in widespread infection or localized bowel damage or tissue death that can lead to obstruction and may require surgery to correct.Eyes: Many premature infants develop problems with their eyes because the blood vessels of the retina are not completely developed.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) results when the fragile blood vessels’ development is interrupted by premature birth and then stop growing or grow abnormally. Severe cases can lead to vision impairment or blindness.
Sometimes the condition can be treated immediately with surgery or laser therapy, and many cases will resolve on their own over time.
38 weeks + 5 days. It is a couple of years ago…but it was a great pregnancy. The nurse said before C-section that it was a very impressive belly even
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One of my best friends (and fellow twin mother) also had this experience, but on a much grander scale. She gave birth to her twins in a foreign country and at only 32 weeks gestation. You can read her personal twin story, In Disguise, on the Twin Stories page.On a lighter note, it should be mentioned that there is an increasing percentage of normal, healthy, twin births. In fact, my own twins as well as those of my best friend are happy, healthy children who continue to grow and thrive. Just be sure to listen to your body, stay informed, and always seek the advice of a qualified professional.
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Whether your twins will need special care for a few days or a few months, it’s never easy. But, being a bit prepared mentally to leave the hospital without your babies will surely alleviate some of the anxiety or stress that you may experience. You have to keep in mind that your babies are in the best possible care and that it’s okay to care for yourself, as well.
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View Article Sources Loftin, R., et al. “Late Preterm Birth.” Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Winter 2010, p. 10. Swamy, G., et al. “Association of Preterm Birth With Long-term Survival, Reproduction, and Next-Generation Preterm Birth,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 26, 2008, p.
1429. “Being pregnant with twins, triplets and other multiples.” March of Dimes Foundation. Accessed January 12, 2016. http://www.marchofdimes.org/multiples-twins-triplets-and-beyond.aspx “Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth.
” March of Dimes Foundation. Accessed January 12, 2016. http://www.marchofdimes.org/materials/born-too-soon-global-action-report-on-preterm-birth.pdf
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There is no way to predict individual outcomes. No doctor has a crystal ball to predict whether a premature baby will grow up healthy. But parents can help ensure the best outcomes for their multiples by being aware of the potential complications and partnering with their children’s medical caregivers to monitor their development and obtain support when needed.
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A 2008 medical study raised alarms about increased problems for preemies throughout their lifetime. Researchers from Duke University Medical Center followed over one million babies born in Norway from 1967-1988. They concluded that premature infants are:
Naturally, I was distraught and completely unprepared. I felt horrible about leaving them at the hospital so I could go home for a shower and change of clothes. I was totally hormonal, tired, worried, and sore too! I never thought seriously about having them in the NICU and I wished I had a better mind set.
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Again, premature birth and/or a stay in the NICU will not happen for everyone…this information is here to help you feel empowered, not more worried!
In hindsight, I can see that if I had taken a more active look at the information that was available to me I would have coped a whole lot better. I imagine I would have felt a little more relaxed than worried at the time. Just like a quarterback preparing for the big game, much of it is mental. Of course, this is only my personal experience, but I urge all those newly pregnant with twins to explore information on premature birth.
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These conditions represent the “worst case scenarios” faced by extremely premature infants, born prior to 32 weeks gestation. In most cases, premature multiples who receive advanced medical care in modern hospital facilities are able to overcome the challenges of their early start.
The reality is that some premature multiples will develop lasting disabilities, ranging from mental retardation to cerebral palsy to vision or hearing loss. Some may experience developmental delays, learning problems in school or attention deficits. Others may merely require glasses or suffer from allergies or asthma. Many conditions can be overcome with early intervention programs including physical, speech or occupational therapies. Other complications may be corrected surgically. And plenty of premature multiples will lead lives with absolutely no consequences from their early start in life.
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After the initial critical phase following a preterm birth, when the focus is on survival, the consequences of prematurity may not be fully known. Some of the long-term complications may not be manifested until the multiples start school. It can be worrisome for parents, who are already stressed by the challenge of caring for more than one baby.
One of the best ways to do this is through other parents that have been there. There are tons of personal blogs, web sites, and books (listed below) that give detailed information and support on the issue of preemie twins. Trust me, it’s worth looking at even a minimal amount of information.
Before you read any further I want you to remember a stay in the NICU will not happen for everyone. And, even if it does, the advances in medicine put the odds more strongly in your favor for a positive outcome. This article is about staying informed and being prepared for any outcome. Nonetheless, this is still a difficult subject to write about. With all of the varying attitudes from, “It’s never going to happen to me” to “I’m scared to death”, it can be hard to find the middle ground between being prepared for the worst and staying positive. After all, we do want to enjoy this special pregnancy as much as possible! There are other articles out there that consider any talk of preterm labor or premature twin birth to be depressing, scary, and useless. Some even suggest that positive attitude alone will get you through with flying colors, even thought a staggering 50% of twins are born prematurely.
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If you are pregnant with twins it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the possibility of their premature birth and a possible stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
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The researchers attributed these outcomes to medical problems that result from prematurely as well as a socioeconomic status that is lowered due to medical conditions. However, their data did not include twins or multiples, and the individuals in the study were born more than twenty years ago and would not have had access to the medical technology that helps so many premature infants today. It’s important to keep this study in perspective.
The womb serves as the perfect place for babies to develop. When babies are born too early, their organs are immature and not ready to function in “the outside world.” Prematurity impacts every vital organ in the body.
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Lungs: Babies, primarily those born before 34 weeks, have trouble breathing air. Respiratory distress syndrome can be treated with artificial breathing assistance and with a surfactant, a substance that helps immature lungs expand.
Sometimes the life-saving measures used to treat lung deficiencies in preemies result in chronic lung disease or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and may require ongoing treatment.Brain: Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH) is bleeding in the brain that mainly affects babies born before 32 weeks or babies who have experienced stress from another condition of prematurity, such as respiratory distress.
It can cause damage to the brain or decreased drainage of spinal fluid leading to a buildup of too much fluid in and around the brain (hydrocephalus).Heart: In the womb, the ductus arteriosus allows babies to receive oxygen through the umbilical cord, bypassing the lungs.
At birth, this blood vessel is supposed to close. Premature infants can develop Patent Ductus Arteriosus, which causes abnormal blood flow between major blood vessels surrounding the heart. It can lead to heart failure.
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How many weeks? It’s one of the first questions people ask about twins and multiples. Prematurity is a risk that a majority of multiples face, and the consequences of an early birth vary from minuscule to life-threatening. The March of Dimes estimates that more than 50% of twins, 90% of triplets and virtually all quadruplets and higher-order multiples are born preterm, or before the 37th week of pregnancy. The earlier the birth, the greater the risk of complications for the babies.
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Because of the increased risk, it’s important for parents of multiples to understand the potential impact that prematurity can hold for children. Prematurity will touch families’ lives in varying degrees. For some, it may mean only a brief hospitalization. Yet others endure extended hospital stays after their babies arrive. In some cases, the medical problems and issues are only a factor in the first few weeks after birth, while other cases have lifelong consequences.
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Preemie twins are born before 37 weeks gestation. On average, twins are born between 35 and 38 weeks. Some reports suggest that approximately 50% of twins are born prematurely.
Perhaps you will want to dress your preemie twins in clothing from home. This may be a comfort especially if your twins will have a long stay in the NICU. There are wonderful web sites that offer NICU approved clothing. Remember, even though the bonding process may seem slow or even awkward, you are still, without a doubt, bonding.
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Talk to your doctor about the hospital’s protocol for premature birth and find out what level of care they can provide for preemie babies. There are several different levels of neonatal care which will vary by hospital. Most hospitals will let you have a look at their facility if you ask. You should also start talking to the pediatrician who will be caring for your babies. They will be able to give you some of the best information on premature twins and what particular issues they may be faced with.
That’s why I believe it’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with even the remote possibility of a NICU stay well before your twins are born. I also believe you can remain very positive and even excited about your impending birth if you simply look at the information in a logical and compassionate way.
When my own twins were born at 36 weeks, they stayed in the NICU for 6 days. I thought for sure that having them at 36 weeks would be no problem. Although they were over 5 lbs each and pretty healthy, they still had to deal with jaundice, proper weight gain, and some minor breathing issues.
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If you plan on breastfeeding, you can pump your milk at home (or, in some cases, the hospital) and bring it to the NICU daily. Your breast milk is one of the best gifts you can give premature babies!
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More likely to die during childhoodLess likely to have children of their own as adultsSignificantly less likely to finish high school or complete college
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Even if you have a healthy pregnancy and birth, your babies may still need some time in the NICU. There are many reasons from very minor to extremely complicated. In any case, good information can only help!There are some factors that may affect your risk for premature birth, such as a previous pregnancy that ended prematurely. Extremes of weight and/or if it’s a first pregnancy may also increase risk. Your particular risks should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor or midwife, as well as the symptoms and signs of preterm labor. Every mother carrying twins should be evaluated by a qualified professional throughout pregnancy to ensure the best possible outcome.
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While your twins are in the NICU try to spend as much time holding them, talking to them, and nursing/feeding them as possible. For some extremely preemie twins, this may not be feasible (at least not right away).
While advances in medical technology have greatly improved the outlook for premature infants, the number of premature births has also increased, making prematurity the leading cause of newborn deaths and the second-leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Worldwide, one in ten infants worldwide is born prematurely.
The determining factor is often the timing of the birth. Babies born closer to their due date are less likely to have serious problems because their organs have had more time to develop in the womb.
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