Prematurity Awareness Month Fact #14:
One of the most common and immediate problems facing premature infants is difficulty breathing. Although there are many causes of breathing difficulties in premature infants, the most common is called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). In RDS, the infant's immature lungs don't produce enough of an important substance called surfactant. Surfactant allows the inner surface of the lungs to expand properly when the infant makes the change from the womb to breathing air after birth. Fortunately, RDS is treatable and many infants do quite well. When premature delivery can't be stopped, most pregnant women can be given medication just before delivery to hasten the production of surfactant in the infant's lungs and help prevent RDS. Then, immediately after birth and several times later, artificial surfactant can be given to the infant if needed. Although most premature babies who lack surfactant will require a breathing machine, or ventilator, for a while, the use of artificial surfactant has greatly decreased the amount of time that infants spend on the ventilator.
Because of Morgan Kate's early, early arrival she did suffer from RDS. Just minutes after her birth surfactant was administered through a ventilator. Of course at this time I was still completely knocked out and completely unaware of what was going on. However, I have been told that MK hated the vent and after the surfactant was administered she no longer needed it. She was then put on the CPAP for a few hours. When I saw MK for the first time she was not using anything to help her breathe. Two or three days later she needed some assistance and was put on the high flow nasal cannula. This then began our roller coaster of "breathing assistance and breathing equipment". For the longest time it seemed as if she was needing more help, instead of less, which we would have preferred.
MK just shortly after birth, CPAP was being "installed"
MK with the high flow nasal cannula
We even tried the oxygen hood, aka "Cookie Jar"
Back to the CPAP
Back to the high flow nasal cannula
After numerous equipment trials and changes and a 10 day course of steriods, Morgan Kate was able to progress to the low flow nasal cannula. The low flow cannula is the last step and it also something that babies can be sent home with. MK came home on the low flow cannula and required it until mid-February.