Physical Therapy Treatments For Premature Babies
The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time in the lives of new parents.
Everyone hopes their child will be happy and healthy, and right from birth there are factors which can affect the health of an infant.
One of these factors is when a baby is born, in relation to their due date.
Infants who are born early, or premature, can have several health issues and complications.
There are a number of health professionals involved in the care of any new baby, but that goes double for a premature baby. Alongside your pediatrician and other specialists, a pediatric physical therapist has an important role to play as well.
Here at District Speech, we offer pediatric physical therapy services that can help premature babies grow into healthy adults.
What Is A Premature Baby?
The average length of carrying a baby is 40 weeks, and generally any infant born between 37 and 40 weeks is considered full term. If birth occurs before the 37-week mark, they are considered to be premature.
Approximately one in nine babies in the United States is considered premature.
- Infants born between 34 and 36 weeks are considered “late preterm”
- Those born between 32 and 34 weeks are “moderately preterm”
- “Very preterm” refers to babies born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
- “Extremely preterm” infants are born before 25 weeks
Not surprisingly, it’s ideal for your baby to be carried to term. And while each premature baby’s situation is unique, it’s common for babies to have more health concerns the more premature they happen to be.
Contact District Speech to find out how.
Health Problems Associated With Premature Birth
Health Problems Associated With Premature Birth
When an infant isn’t carried to full term, a number of health issues can result. Many of these issues are associated with low birth weight, due to the fact that premature infants miss out on critical time in the womb to continue to grow and develop.
Some of these health issues may include:
What Causes Premature Birth?
There are a number of different factors that can contribute to a baby being born premature. These can include:
- Parent being younger than 19 or older than 40
- Drug use during pregnancy, including tobacco, amphetamines, or cocaine
- Previous history of preterm delivery
- Low income or social status
- Prior health issues involving the uterus
- Lack of access to health care
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Premature rupture of the amniotic sac or placenta
- Physical trauma during pregnancy
Physical Therapy Evaluations For Premature Babies
A premature infant faces a number of health issues and risks which a full term infant may not. Because of this, parents with a preterm infant will need to work with a team of doctors and other health care professionals to ensure their child gets the best care possible.
Often times a premature baby will need to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In this case, your pediatric physical therapist can evaluate your baby while they’re in the unit.
During an evaluation, your infant physical therapist will look at and examine a number of factors, including:
- How calm your baby is
- How alert your baby is
- The ways in which your baby interacts with the environment
- The ability of your baby to move
Your physical therapist may use a gentle, hands-on approach in order to assess the movement of your baby’s head, arms, legs, and body.
How Can A Pediatric Physical Therapist Help Your Premature Baby?
After your pediatric physical therapist evaluates your baby, they’ll report back to you on their findings. In some cases, premature babies don’t have any health concerns that a pediatric physical therapist needs to help with. However, if there are areas of concern, your infant physical therapist will let you know.
Some specific areas where a pediatric physical therapist for premature babies can help with include:
- Reduction and prevention of muscle and joint issues
- Improving muscle strength
- Developing proper head positions
- Encouraging movement and other developmental markers
- Using toys to promote play and movement
- Gradually increasing activities to encourage participation with family members
Your infant physical therapist will draw from a variety of different treatment methods which include encouraging developmental skills, education, and improving strength.
Let’s have a look at each of these
Encouraging Developmental Skills
Premature infants often have issues related to their development.
A pediatric physical therapist can help your child develop skills such as crawling, sitting up, holding their head up, and as they get older standing and walking.
They can suggest activities to help foster these skills and develop communication, strength, vision, and hearing.
This involves education for you and your baby’s other primary caretakers on the ideal ways to hold and carry your baby.
Education involves learning how to safely position your child for sleep (on their back) and for play (on their stomach).
Often, premature infants have lowered muscle tone and strength.
Your infant physical therapist can introduce exercises and games which can help maintain and increase strength.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
Have you given birth prematurely?
Are you worried about the developmental progress of your child, or noticing they aren’t developing at the same rate as other children their age?
As a new parent you want what’s best for your child, and this may include working with a physical therapist to ensure they’re developing at an appropriate rate.
At District Speech we offer pediatric physical therapy services which can help with these and other developmental issues faced by premature babies.
Our physical therapists have treatment solutions that work.