Malnutrition in premature newborns: A Filipino mom shares her preemie’s story

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A mom of three shares how her youngest child continues to fight while in the NICU with a birth defect, malnutrition and unexplained seizures

Cavite-based mom Apple Potante knew her premature newborn would need to be cared for closely. She knew that malnutrition in premature newborns is a real possibility, but she wasn't expecting that a birth defect and sudden seizures would make the postpartum period even more difficult. In an interview with theAsianparent Philippines, the mom of three recalls realizing something was wrong shortly after giving birth.

Her baby started having seizures after feeding.

"Pagkapanganak ko po sa kanya, okay naman po siya. Nakalipas po ang ilang minuto ng binigyan ko po siya ng gatas sa feeding bottle, parang nasusuka na nangingitim siya," shares Apple, whose baby Jovelle is now a month old. "Nahihirapan po siya hinga pero binalewala lang po namin kasi po makalipas ang ilang minuto, okay na siya. Nakalipas ang ilang oras pinainom ko po ulit ng gatas. Hindi ko po kaya magbreastfeed, cesarean po ako kaya formula muna."

(When I gave birth to her, she was okay. After a few minutes, I gave her milk through a bottle, she started to gag and her skin became dark. She was struggling to breathe, but we ignored it because after a few minutes, she seemed to be okay again. After a few hours, I gave her milk again. I could not breastfeed after undergoing a Cesarean so I gave her formula first.)

Doctors then found out that baby Jovelle had a birth defect known as Tracheoesophageal fistula.

After she was given milk again, her baby Jovelle suddenly experienced a seizure, which prompted the nurse on duty to bring the preemie to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

At the NICU, doctors found that baby Jovelle had a birth defect known as a tracheoesophageal fistula.

Apple also shared her struggles in a Facebook post, where she seeks financial help (screenshot: Apple Potante Facebook page)

During the first few months in utero, the long hollow, digestive tube known as the esophagus develops. It is responsible for linking the mouth to the stomach. When the esophagus does not develop normally, it results in a birth defect known as esophageal atresia. Instead of one tube, those with esophageal atresia develop two separate tubes, which need to be sealed through surgery.

Those with this condition also commonly develop tracheoesophageal fistula, which is a defect that results in an abnormal connection between the esophagus and trachea. This is considered a birth defect, as the esophagus and trachea should not be connected in any way.

Baby Jovelle is now getting more hydration and nourishment through an intravenous tube

Aside from this birth defect, the inability to suck, breathe, and swallow properly has made it even more difficult for baby Jovelle to breastfeed normally, which hinders her from getting proper nourishment or achieving healthy weight gain.

NICU doctors have placed an IV to make sure Apple's baby is hydrated and nourished.

In general, premature babies encounter feeding issues because they struggle to feed by mouth. This may be due to breathing problems, poor oxygenation, poor circulation, or a blood infection. They also have difficulty maintaining their body's water balance. Hence, they can either be dehydrated or over-hydrated.

Baby Jovelle's weight has improved but they have yet to find out the exact cause of seizures

Apple, who is currently still confined at the hospital a month after her C-section, laments that she has been too weak to visit her baby, who is currently in need of a blood transfusion, on top of needing the right amount of nourishment to get her weight up.

Though her weight has improved, Apple's little one has still been getting a fever and having seizures on and off.  She tells us that she is currently awaiting the results of an EEG (electroencephalogram) to find out whether these seizures are indicative of a problem concerning the nervous system.

In closing, the mom offered some words of advice for parents going through a similar situation.

"Sa mga parent po na may ganitong pinagdadaanan huwag po panghihinaan ng loob para sa anak," she urges. "Manalangin lamang po tayo at magtiwala po tayo sa ating Panginoon at papagalingin po niya ang ating anak na may karamdaman."

(To parents who are going through the same thing, stay strong for your kids. Let's pray and trust in the Lord and He will heal our sick children.)

*lead image for representation purposes only (source: dreamstime)

sources: Stanford Children's Health, University of California San Francisco Pediatric Surgery, MedLine Plus

READ: Meet Cedrick, Dexter, and Vanessa: 3 of the 7 Million Filipino children suffering from hunger and malnutrition daily

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