Preemie moms suffer from health problems, too

By Shayna Brouker • Published: March 22nd, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When a baby makes an early arrival, the focus turns immediately to making sure the little one gets a fair chance at life. Tests, tubes, waiting and worrying mark the days, weeks and months following a very low birth weight baby’s beginning. But new research shows that moms of premature babies face long-term health problems of their own.

Very low birth weight babies weigh less than 3.3 pounds at birth. More than 63,000 of these tiny treasures are born every year, but just about 38 percent of them make it home from the hospital. Those who do face a long road to recovery … as do their parents.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison indicates that the stress of having a child in the NICU may take a toll on mom’s health, too. Researchers found that preemie moms who spent the most time in the NICU had the most health problems five years later. Also, those whose children had behavioral problems at age 2 suffered worse mental health three years later compared to other moms. Other factors that played a role in mom’s health included having health problems during pregnancy and being a single parent.

Another study that followed almost 300 moms of preemies for 14 years found that women whose kids had ongoing medical problems faced more health struggles of their own. On the other hand, moms of healthier preemies had no more health problems than those whose babies reached full term.

Doctors say the key to countering stress and ailments in mothers is a solid social support system. Having a baby is hard enough, but add special needs and countless hours in the hospital and you need a small army to get by. Moms of premature babies, heed this advice: You don’t always have to be a hero. Take advantage of help when it’s offered. After all, your baby needs you healthy.