As adults, many of us rely on caffeine to get us through the day. While the benefits of caffeine are often questioned, the benefits of caffeine therapy after premature birth are gaining support in the medical community. In fact, in July 2017, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) published a report indicating that caffeine therapy improves lung function in babies born prematurely.
Premature birth is classified as a birth occurring before 37 weeks gestation. There are many reasons why babies are born prematurely, including natural factors and those caused by the actions or omissions of healthcare providers. Depending on the factors that contribute to the birth, how the baby’s health is managed may vary.
Among the most concerning elements of premature birth is lung development and function. In this article, we will discuss the positive benefits of caffeine therapy for premature babies, and what you should know as a parent.
Caffeine Therapy for Lung Development
Caffeine is a type of drug classified as methylxanthines, which reduce apnea – a condition in which a baby stops breathing for a series of seconds. Caffeine has been used in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) for years as a breathing support treatment, but in recent years has gained more attention for the potential long-term benefits.
In the ATS report, Australian researchers detailed the results of a study designed to measure the mid-childhood effects of caffeine treatment in children born prematurely. The randomized study included 142 children who were part of the International Caffeine for Apnea of Prematurity study. Studying expiratory flows (how fast a person can completely empty their lungs of air on exhale), the study showed significantly better results among children treated with caffeine after birth than those given a placebo.
Based on the results of the study, researchers suggested that caffeine therapy improved long-term breathing functions by reducing abnormal development or injury to the lungs of newborns. Like many healthcare-related studies, researchers noted some limitations and made recommendations for future research to expand upon what was gathered in this study. Researchers suggest additional, more broad studies be conducted, as well as studies assessing the effects of caffeine therapy among teenagers and adults.
Caffeine Therapy Information for Parents
Even with limitations, studies like this one offer hope for parents of premature babies who have reason to worry about lung development. Caffeine therapy has been used for many years, but increasing knowledge about the long-term effects can help parents make informed decisions about their child’s ongoing healthcare.
Many parents find it difficult to imagine giving a tiny, premature human caffeine. Here are some helpful considerations to put your mind at ease about caffeine therapy.
- Caffeine therapy has been used in hospitals across the world to treat apnea in premature babies for decades.
- The benefits of caffeine therapy come from its use as a respiratory stimulant. Caffeine therapy helps your baby’s lungs develop and mature, and helps your baby’s brain signal properly when it is time to take a breath.
- Once your baby’s lungs have developed enough for him or her to breathe on their own, caffeine therapy will be stopped via a weaning process to ensure safety.
- While caffeine therapy is common, you should never worry about talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have about treatment. Ask questions, express concerns, and be active in the care of your newborn.
- Some studies have shown that extended caffeine therapy may be helpful in reducing episodes of apnea, or in further maturing lungs after the 34-week gestational marker where therapy is generally stopped. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of continuing therapy if your newborn continues to have episodes.
Giving birth prematurely and moving through the NICU process can be taxing on your entire being. It is physically, financially, and emotionally challenging. Fortunately, researchers are making strides toward providing premature babies and their families better options to improve outcomes.
Your Rights if Negligence Resulted in Premature Birth or Birth Injuries
At Birth Injury Guide, we love providing our readers with helpful, real-life information. Our goal is to provide hope to families across the U.S. and help them understand their legal rights. In terms of premature birth, we frequently review cases involving a complex web of factors contributing to the birth, such as:
- Maternal conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), or infections
- Maternal history of premature births, abortions (spontaneous or elective), or back-to-back pregnancies
- Fetal complications or independent healthcare concerns
Sometimes complications and health concerns are unavoidable, but in those times proper care and treatment is critical to ensuring the health of you and your child. Many cases of premature birth involving birth injuries to the mother or child are the result of factors, such as:
- Improper monitoring of maternal or fetal health
- Misdiagnosis of maternal or fetal complications
- Failure of healthcare providers to provide timely treatment
If any of these factors are relevant to you and you feel that your rights as a patient have been violated, contact Birth Injury Guide to discuss your situation. Healthcare providers who fail to diagnose, delay diagnosis, or fail to properly monitor your health may be negligent. In such cases, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice or birth injury lawsuit.
At Birth Injury Guide, we have the knowledge and experience you need to find out more about your rights and options to protect your family and obtain the best outcome possible. Fill out our online form for a free case review.