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- Premature babies do not have fully developed intestines. This may make it difficult for the intestines to handle the stress of moving food.
- The stress may cause a decrease in oxygen or blood flow to the intestines. The loss of oxygen and blood flow can cause damage to the intestine.
- Bacteria can enter the intestine through the damaged area. The bacteria can lead to an infection and swelling. This will weaken the wall of the intestine even further.
- If the process continues it can perforate the intestine.
- A difficult delivery or low oxygen levels during labor
- Gastrointestinal infection
- Indomethacin or early dexamethasone treatment
- Being considered as high risk and has started taking milk by mouth or feeding tube
- Difficulty feeding
- Feedings stay in your baby’s stomach longer than expected
- A sudden increase in bowel movements, or lack of bowel movements
- Bloody bowel movements
- Baby doesn’t pass a lot of gas
- Bloated abdomen that may be tender to the touch or red
- Vomiting, which may be greenish in color
- Stopping breathing or difficulty breathing
- Low heart rate
- Temperature instability
- Cool, clammy skin
Empty the Stomach
- Breastmilk may reduce the chance of NEC compared to formula
- The first feeding may be postponed until your baby is stable. Increase the feeding amount very slowly.
- Closely observe your baby for signs of feeding intolerance.
- Probiotics may help decrease the risk of NEC.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development http://www.nichd.nih.gov
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Evidence-based care guideline for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) among very low birth weight infants. Cincinnati (OH): Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; 2010 Oct 7. Accessed July 25, 2012.
Necrotizing enterocolitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 2, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
Pietz J, Achanti B, Lilien L, Stepka E, Mehta S. Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants: A 20-year experience. Pediatrics. 2007; 119:164-170.
- Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014 -
- Update Date: 00/93/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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