Considering that twin pregnancies are considered full term at 37 weeks gestation, almost half of twin pregnancies are premature, as they never arrive at that goal. With odds like this, experience teaches us that with high risk pregnancies such as ours, parents expecting twins should always become familiar with the risks of premature birth; even if it is to alleviate the fear of the unknown. I have spoken to many twin moms who after being in what they considered the “home stretch” at 35 weeks, wound up giving birth shortly afterward and dealing with some of those high risk issues. It is much easier to be prepared while facing nothing than to be unprepared for anything in this situation. To follow are some of the conditions that can arise from prematurity, even in one or two week premature births.
Apnea of Prematurity and Bradycardia-A’s and B’s
These two conditions usually exist together as a result of premature birth, and basically apnea is a pause in breathing which leads to bradycardia; a drop in blood oxygen levels and heartbeat. These conditions are usually caused by underdeveloped nervous and/or muscular systems, and can be especially scary if the family is sent home (with a less extreme case), because a monitor might be used at home that will go off with even tiny pauses in breathing. This may wind up actually waking the child and bringing their breathing back into rhythm, but rubbing or patting the baby can help as well. Most of these situations resolve themselves when the baby reaches the age he/she was to be full term.
This situation is hard to detect unless there is noticeable discomfort for the child. Silent reflux occurs when instead of spitting up excess milk (as babies normally do), the child’s esophagus allows them to swallow the regurgitated milk before it is expelled. This sometimes creates gagging, too much stomach acid in the throat, and overall discomfort for the baby. (Luckily, breast milk has natural antacids). Experts don’t recommend treatment for this situation unless the baby has trouble eating, gaining weight, or shows signs of considerable discomfort. Many families use a baby pillow to raise the babies head above the stomach in the crib; others just try to keep the child upright or carry them after eating.
Jaundice is a common occurrence in all babies-not only premature ones. It is a yellowing of the skin that can be attributed to a buildup of bilirubin-a by-product of broken down red blood cells. Most instances of jaundice in newborns are relatively harmless, and many cases are fixed by exposure to a special light at the hospital. An interesting side note, the light therapy actually converts the bilirubin into a product that can be released via the baby’s urine.
The point of the story is that a lot of unnecessary stress can be avoided by learning more about your pregnancy and its possible outcomes-good and bad. Knowledge is power-and if there is one thing I learned from all I read before my pregnancy, I at least knew better than to stress through every stage.