Late Preterm Birth: A New Nursing Issue
Preterm infants account for 12.7% of live births in the United States every year (Shaw, 2008). In the last 10 years, “late pre-term” (defined as infants born between 34 and 36 6/7 completed weeks’ gestation) has accounted for 74% of all preterm births (Shaw, 2008). Research has been conducted on the outcomes of being born within this gestation and it is shown that these infants have immediate and long term effects. When studied with full term infants, late preterm infants had increased rates of poor feeding, respiratory issues and kernicterus (Shaw, 2008)
Late preterm infants require more nutrients than term infants do. Every week that a mother is able to maintain pregnancy increases the odds of a healthier infant. These late preterm infants have decreased ability to do the multiple tasks that are required for proper feeding, such as the coordination to suck, swallow and breathe (Shaw, 2008). Respiratory distress is another concern for these preterm infants. When the infant falls in the early 34 week gestation category their lungs may be undeveloped and they may need extra help to breathe. Liver function is an issue that needs to be monitored closely as it may cause kernicterus; severe and untreated hyperbilirubinemia that can lead to chronic brain damage. It was found that late preterm infants are 2.4 times more likely to develop high bilirubin levels (Shaw, 2008). The above issues have begun to be addressed by The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) and the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who have formulated an assessment guide to help in the immediate care for these infants. The AWHONN In order to provide adequate care for this patient population there needs to be a change in the
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way nurses and doctors respond to special needs of these infants. Recognizing that these preterm infants require extra monitoring and care will...