There are many factors that might cause you to have a premature baby. In some cases, delivering your baby preterm could be completely out of your control and dictated by external factors. In others, your baby might be premature based on health choices you made during your pregnancy, such as smoking or overeating. Either way, having a premature baby poses multiple health risks and these babies will require special attention after they’re born. Since they didn’t fully finish development in the womb, they’ll need to stay in the hospital until your doctor decides that they’re as fully grown as they would have been had they developed fully inside of you. Luckily, medical advances have made it so that premature babies are able to get all of the care they need upon their arrival into the real world. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) will give your premature baby all of the extra care he or she needs.

One important part of premature care is temperature regulation. Since premature babies are born with less body fat, it’s more difficult for them to stay warm. In the NICU, premature babies will be kept inside an incubator so that they stay warm. When babies are not warm enough, it takes them longer to grow. Obviously, this poses a major problem for premature infants, since they are both colder and also need to grow even faster than their fully grown counterparts. Studies show that keeping premature infants warm with an incubator in the NICU will help them grow faster and reach safe levels of development more efficiently. If your premature baby ends up in the NICU in an incubator, your doctor will attach a thermometer to his or her stomach to monitor body temperature over time. When your baby seems to be regulating his or her normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be able to safely take him or her home.

Historically, premature babies have always had a lot more health problems than babies that were born at full term, but there is a much higher survival rate than ever before thanks to modern medical advances and technological care abilities. Until now, many premature babies died because they could not receive the care they needed to stay healthy. Now, almost all premature babies survive thanks to advanced care in the neonatal ICU and more knowledgeable specialists, nurses and doctors.

Source: AJ Lyon et al: Goals and Options in Keeping Preterm Babies Warm. Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal Neonatal Edition Volume 96 pp. 71-74 2011