Apnoea of prematurity

Babies born prematurely have immature reflexes and this also applies to respiratory reflexes. This means that they sometimes "forget" to breathe and they can stop breathing for short periods, so-called apnoea. In connection with a cessation in breathing, oxygenation often drops and sometimes the heart rate decreases.

A cessation in breathing can sometimes be triggered by something, such as the baby defecating or being tired after eating, but it can also be completely unprovoked. The baby's breathing usually starts again spontaneously, but sometimes the baby needs a little stimulation for breathing to recommence, and during prolonged periods of apnoea the baby may need respiratory support, i.e., the staff ventilates the baby using a mask, a so-called NeoPuff.

Apnoea of prematurity can be treated with medication that contains caffeine. Just as with coffee, caffeine raises the level of alertness and thus can prevent apnoea. Generally, apnoea will disappear as the baby starts to mature and should have ceased entirely before discharge from the neonatal ward.

Text: Kajsa Bohlin Blennow