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 can’t provide the body with enough oxygen. NRDS often occurs when there isn't 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 collapsing.1
Most babies produce enough surfactant to breathe normally by week 34. Babies born prematurely may not have enough surfactant in their lungs.1
NRDS is a common complication of premature birth, affecting 50% of babies born before 28 weeks.1 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.
Thanks to advances in treatment, the condition can usually be successfully treated and NRDS-related deaths are now very rare in the UK.1