THE PREMATURE INFANT
The premature infant's mortality risk is far greater than that of the term infant. It
accounts for over fifty percent of deaths among neonates. A large percentage of all
premature infants can survive if they receive comprehensive medical management,
including specialized nursing care. The adjustment to extrauterine life presents an
added hazard to the premie because he leaves the protection of the uterus before his
physical development is sufficient. He comes into the extrauterine world with
physiological limitations that could set the stage for both early and later complications.
These limitations or handicaps differ in kind, number, and severity, depending on
gestational age at birth. The smaller the infant, the more arduous his struggle is
expected to be. Each premature infant provides the nursery personnel with a unique
challenge. His specific physical needs are met most successfully when the nurse
recognized the intensity of care required and applies expert nursing skills geared to
assist with his struggle.
10-2. DEFINITION AND CRITERIA
The premature (preterm) infant is one born before the end of the thirty-seventh
week of gestation. Additional criteria used to more objectively define prematurity are
neurological development data, skin and joint characteristics, size, and any predominant
10-3. CAUSES OF PREMATURITY
In most instances the causes of prematurity are not known. However, the
following conditions are considered:
a. Poor diet.
b. Poor health.
c. Cervical incompetence.
d. Multiple pregnancies/births.
e. Advanced age of parents.