The idea of surgery is scary for anyone. But learning your premature baby needs to have surgery can be terrifying. Learning what you can expect may make things a little easier. The following information is adapted from Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies.
Ask a lot of questions
- Talk to your baby’s neonatologist, the surgeon who will be operating, the anesthesiologist, and any other specialists who may be involved in your baby’s care.
- Don’t be afraid to ask ANY questions that you have. It may be helpful to write them down as you think of them so that you don’t forget to ask when you see your baby’s doctors. You may meet with someone unexpectedly and you will not want to miss the opportunity to get answers to your questions. Perhaps keep a notebook or pad in your handbag so you can jot down your thoughts as they cross your mind.
- Also, take advantage of talking to the NICU nurses. They have cared for many preemies and understand your fears and concerns and can give you an idea of what is going to happen.
- Most premature babies are put under general anesthesia for surgery. This means that your baby will not be able to move during the surgery. She will not feel any pain or have any memory of the procedure.
- If general anesthesia is used, your baby will not be able to breathe on her own and will need to be on a ventilator.
- The surgical team will be monitoring your baby to make sure she is as comfortable as possible. During the surgery, your baby will be kept warm. The room temperature will be raised and she will be covered as much as possible. IV fluids may be warmed as well.
- Preemies need very special care after surgery. Immediately after surgery, your baby will remain in a recovery area while the anesthesia wears off.
- The surgical team will then accompany your baby back to the NICU and update the neonatologists and bedside nurses.
- It will take some time for the anesthesia to leave your baby’s body. This means she may be on a ventilator to help her breathe. If your baby didn’t have a breathing problem before surgery, she may be removed from the ventilator within hours or up to a few days after surgery. Babies who did have breathing problems will most likely need to be on a ventilator for a longer period of time.
- Pain can delay healing and recovery, so your baby’s NICU team will be watching carefully for any signs that she is uncomfortable. The medication your baby receives to manage pain depends on a number of factors. Make sure you ask the doctors and nurses if you have concerns.
Asking questions and understanding what to expect before, during, and after your baby’s surgery, can help you feel more confident and better prepared for the procedure. You may also find it helpful to talk to other parents who have been through a similar experience with their preemie. Share Your Story, our online community, will allow you to connect with other moms and dads who can offer advice and support.
And, of course, we are here to answer any questions you may have. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.