Having a baby is an exciting time for expectant parents. For many, the 40 week gestation leading up to the birth of the infant include many emotional roller coaster rides. Through changing fetal shape and development, a woman enters into one of the most profound physical and emotional experiences of her life; often focusing diligently on diet and exercise to ensure the most optimal health outcome for her fetus.
For some mothers, however, diligent work can not prevent the sudden, and often unexpected, delivery of a premature baby. Beyond the realization in delivery of a premature baby, expectant parents watch, often confused, as the premature infant faces surmounting and varied health complications. Of these premature infant complications, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, can lead to significant complications resulting in the inability of a premature infant to breath appropriately in the minutes following birth. As an expectant parent, at risk for premature delivery and birth, understanding the risk and complications associated with Respiratory Distress Syndrome, RDS, will provide for a better equipped health outcome in the days and weeks following birth.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome, RDS, commonly afflicts premature infants who are born at 30 weeks gestation or earlier. Named for a disorder of the lungs, Respiratory Distress Syndrome is so named for the premature baby’s lack of natural lung development which, under normal development, occurs in the final weeks of pregnancy.
When born with Respiratory Distress Syndrome, RDS, a premature baby will often require the use of a ventilator for several days as the lungs complete the necessary development to function independently. In addition to ventilator use, the premature baby will commonly undergo administration of a lung medication, intravenously, known as surfactant. This medication works to improve the function of the lungs and is a required fluid to aide in oxygen flow through the lung chambers.
Because a premature baby, delivered before 30 weeks gestation, commonly suffers from Respiratory Distress Syndrome, RDS, the regular monitor of oxygen capacity is required so as to ensure the infant is receiving proper oxygen levels to support vital organ and brain function. As a result, parents of the premature baby are often surprised to find the small infant in an enclosed NICU bed, with a variety of tubes and wires attached to the small bodily frame. As parents of the premature baby, it is important to understand these medical devices work, in collaboration, to provide the necessary nutrition and medication to the premature baby while also monitoring for the success or failure of these same applications.
In the days and weeks following a premature birth, infants suffering from Respiratory Distress Syndrome, when administered oxygen and surfactant appropriately, will improve without further incident in healthcare. While other health complications may exist in a premature infant, most complications associated with Respiratory Distress Syndrome are resolved by the time the infant is released to go home.
When expecting a baby, discussions involving health, diet and exercise are crucially important with the obstetrician. However, expectant parents, prior to the birth of the infant, should also meet with the pediatrician to discuss not only standard newborn and child care services, but also the processes and treatment recommendations indicated in the case of premature birth. In doing so, the establishment of communication with the pediatrician, before birth, will provide for a more effective care process for the premature baby following birth.