At 30 weeks’ gestation, a client is admitted to the unit in premature labor. Her contractions are every 5 minutes and last 60 seconds, her cervix is closed, and the suture placed around her cervix during her 16th week of gestation, when she had the MacDonald procedure, can still be felt by the physician. The amniotic sac is still intact. She is very concerned about delivering prematurely. She asks the RN, “What is the greatest risk to my baby if it is born prematurely?”
The RN’s answer should be:
A . Hyperglycemia
B . Hypoglycemia
C . Lack of development of the intestines
D . Lack of development of the lungs
(A) Any infant would be at risk for hyperglycemia because the infant’s liver is missing the islets of Langerhans, which secrete insulin to break down glucose for cellular use. Prematurity is not an added risk for hyperglycemia.
(B) Both premature and mature infants can be at risk for hypoglycemia if their mother had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or entered the pregnancy with diabetes mellitus. These infants are exposed to high levels of maternal glucose while in utero, which causes the islets of Langerhans in the infant’s liver to produce insulin. After birth when the umbilical cord is severed, the generous amount of maternal blood glucose is eliminated; however, there is continued islet cell hyperactivity in the infant’s liver, which can lead to excessive insulin levels and depleted blood glucose.
(C) Mature infants are born with an immature GI system. The nervous control of the stomach is incomplete at birth, salivary glands are immature at birth, and the intestinal tract is sterile. This is not the greatest risk to the premature infant.
(D) Infants born before 37 weeks’ gestation are at greatest risk for an insufficient amount of surfactant in the alveoli system of the lungs. Surfactant helps to prevent lung collapse and ensures stability of the respiratory system so that the infant can maintain his own respirations once the umbilical cord is severed at birth.
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