"Apnea" means not breathing. "Prematurity" is when a baby is born too early. Apnea of prematurity is when a premature baby Premature Baby "Pre-" means before, and "mature" means fully grown. A premature baby is born too early. A full pregnancy lasts 37 to 40 weeks, so a premature baby is born anytime before the 37th week of pregnancy... read more stops breathing for short periods. These pauses in breathing last 20 seconds or more and happen over and over.
Apnea of prematurity usually happens when the part of your baby’s brain that controls breathing isn't fully developed
About 1 in 4 premature babies get it
The apnea happens less often over weeks and months as your baby's brain develops
Restart breathing by gently touching your baby
Sometimes doctors use caffeine, or a CPAP machine or ventilator, to help with breathing
Causes of apnea of prematurity include:
These problems go away as your baby gets older and the brain and muscles develop.
You and your doctors can see the breathing pauses. Your baby may also wear a monitor that sets off an alarm if they stop breathing.
Doctors may do tests to be sure the apnea isn't caused by another health problem. They may do:
Doctors treat any problems causing the apnea.
During a breathing pause, doctors will have you gently touch your baby to help restart breathing.
If your baby's apnea happens a lot:
Your baby may need to be in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) Problems in newborns may develop Before birth while the fetus is growing During labor and delivery After birth About 10% of newborns need special care after birth due to prematurity, problems... read more )
Doctors may give your baby caffeine, which stimulates breathing
Your baby may need a CPAP How do doctors treat sleep apnea? Apnea is a medical word for "not breathing." Sleep apnea is when your breathing slows or stops for a short time while you're sleeping and then restarts. This happens over and over each time... read more (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or ventilator Ventilators Ventilation is the same thing as breathing. It's the movement of air into and out of your lungs. Sometimes your breathing needs to be assisted by a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that... read more to help with breathing
Just like other babies, babies with apnea of prematurity should sleep on their back and not their tummy. Your doctor will check to make sure your baby can safely ride in a car seat.