Monday, May 10, 2010

The penalties of early arrival

Eighteen and a half years ago, son 1 was a tiny baby wired up to a bank of machines in neonatal intensive care. We were lucky that he survived, even though at 5lbs 1oz he was one of the biggest babies in the unit.

He received nutrients and medication via drips and later through a tube down his nose into his stomach. A ventilator breathed for him, expanding his lungs to the danger point of bursting. He became part of a medical trial of a lung treatment. He had a cannula on his hand through which blood samples were frequently taken to check on blood gasses, nutrients and medication levels. So much blood was taken that he had to be given a transfusion to replace it. He must have suffered pain and discomfort, despite being sedated.

So I was interested to read this article in The Times this morning about ways such care can have a lifelong impact on premature babies. I can't honestly say whether Son 1's pain threshold has been affected, though it is certainly possible as he does seem to experience certain types of pain intensely. But my eye was also caught by the tiny mention of an increased risk of mental health problems. I haven't yet seen that research and will have to have a look for it one day, because that too makes perfect sense to me.

We were one of the lucky families. Son 1 was only 6 weeks early and has had no serious lasting effects.Or has he? Who knows.

10 comments:

Queenie said...

My auntie gave birth to all three of my cousins between 6 and 8 weeks early. I don't know about their physical pain thresholds, but so far they seem to be entirely mentally healthy. And they're now aged 24, 28 and 31, so that's not bad going!

Cathy said...

Queenie, obviously I don't know your family history, but I think the important factor is whether the baby had to be given intensive care, with all the painful interventions that involves. Most babies born 6-8 weeks early won't need that level of support, we were unlucky that son 1 was born with underdeveloped lungs for his gestation.

SueG said...

Yes, I saw this too and was wondering about it. Both of my kids were premies, the first being 6 weeks early. But because of gestational diabetes, he was huge - already over 9 lbs. He's 26 now, but he's always been susceptible to germs and always has had a low pain threshhold. We've teased him about it --shame on us. Now I wonder.....

Sarah*G* said...

This post really caught my eye. I was born 8 weeks premature by emergency caeserain section and weighed just over 3lbs. (I have more than made up for that now) I had a collapsed lung, pnemonia, jaundice and a hole in the heart. I have never really thought about my pain threshold being affected. I am off to read the article in the Times. Slightly off topic but my mum always tells me of the day she came into the intensive care unit I was in and saw me lying in the incubator with machines all around me when one of the machines appeared to flat line. My mum panicked, grabbed a nearby nurse and dragged her in. Nurse thumped the side of the machine and it started beeping again. I was fine and they were testing the machine on babies that were doing well as they borrowed it from another hospital who was getting new ones. This was the closest my mum has every come to a heart attack apparently. (this was 1976/7)

Cathy said...

Sue - 9lbs?! OMG.

Sarah - I can imagine what your mum went through. We were present in the intensive care unit when machines started alarming and a baby who had been there for months sadly passed away.It was all very traumatic even though it wasn't our baby.

Clarissa Draper said...

That's really an interesting article. We're still find out a lot about premature babies and what they go through.

By the way, I have an award for you at my blog.

CD

Cathy said...

Clarissa Draper - thank you :)

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I guess who knows indeed. Many things happen to us in the womb or at birth which can trigger an illness or condition later on in life. I imagine intensive care was hard. I would have been a wreck in that situation.

CJ xx

Cathy said...

CJ - I was a wreck, I think most parents are. But it gets easier as the baby moves out of intensive care into the 'feed and grow' rooms before going home. Also, the staff were superb, very supportive of parents.

Marianne said...

This is an interesting area Cathy and I think there is a lot we don't yet understand here, but I can see that there could well be a link