Any child born before the 37th week of pregnancy is deemed to be premature. Thanks to the enormous progress in neonatology, which is a branch of paediatrics, even children who come into this world early now have a good chance of a healthy life.
Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (NRDS, or hyaline membrane disease) is a serious condition, where a newborn baby’s lungs cannot provide the body with enough oxygen. NRDS often occurs when there is not enough surfactant in the lungs. Surfactant is made up from proteins and fats and helps to keep the lungs inflated and prevent parts of the lungs collapsing1.
Most babies produce enough surfactant to breathe normally by week 34. Babies born prematurely may not have enough surfactant in their lungs1.
NRDS is a common complication of premature birth, affecting 50% of babies born before 28 weeks1. NRDS is usually treated in a neonatal intensive care unit so that a ventilator can support the function of the lungs while they recover and complete their development.
Although still a significant problem for preterm babies, advances in the management of NRDS has resulted in improved survival2.