Trouble at the Start: Finding Support for Premature Birth Complications
The arrival of a new baby is one of the most exciting milestones in life! For expecting parents and their supportive family members and friends, waiting for the baby to finally show up can be one of the toughest parts of pregnancy, as everyone is excited to meet the newest, tiniest member of the family.
But the wait is worth it. If a baby arrives too early, it can lead to an array of immediate and long-term health issues.
When a baby is born at least three weeks before their due date, it is called a premature birth. The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, so a baby born any time before the 37th week is considered premature. Premature births can range from moderately preterm, such as those that occur between the 32nd week, to extremely premature before the 25th week.
Premature births can occur for a variety of reasons, from health conditions like preeclampsia to high stress situations. It is more likely to affect women who are younger than 17 or older than 35, carrying more than one child, or who waited a short amount of time between having a child and then getting pregnant again. In rare occasions, premature birth might be the result of medical negligence, like an inaccurate reading of an ultrasound or a failure to treat an infection.
Immediate and Long-term Complications
Some of the complications of a premature birth occur immediately or soon after birth. These include:
- Breathing problems
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Lack of oxygen to other organs
- Hypothermia from problems with maintaining body temperature
- Bleeding in the brain
- Fluid accumulation on the brain
- Low blood sugar
- Infection risk
To combat these immediate issues, premature babies often need extra care. They may require the help of feeding tubes, respirators, or incubators. They might stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for weeks or even months.
Even though many premature babies might have initial issues, plenty fully recover from their early start in the world, and grow up without any lasting complications from their birth.
For others, however, long-terms consequences do result from a premature birth. Lingering or lifelong complications or disabilities might include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Growth impairment
- Learning disabilities
- Vision or hearing problems
- Dental problems
- Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Behavioral and psychological issues, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or an increased risk of anxiety or depression
- Chronic health problems, like asthma and an increased risk of infection
Since many of these health conditions can have a debilitating and long-lasting impact on a child’s life, some issues that arise from a premature birth might qualify them for Social Security Insurance, or SSI. Unlike Social Security Disability insurance (SSD), SSI is need-based. This means that it is based on an individual’s income, rather than on their work history or ability to perform work. For children with severe illnesses or impairments, as well as people who don’t have a work history due to a severe disability, SSI allows them to still receive benefits.
Qualifying for SSI
For a child’s premature birth-related complications to qualify them for SSI, their condition must
- have an impairment or group of impairments that causes substantial limitations in their functions
- last for least twelve months, or result in their death
This means that if a child experiences issues at birth but grows up without any long-term effects, their premature birth would not qualify them for SSI. A child with a severe learning disability, on the other hand, might qualify, as it will likely affect them throughout their entire life.
The Challenges of Income Limits
There are also income requirements that must be met for a premature child to qualify for SSI. Since the program is need-based, the family’s income is considered. The limit depends on the family situation, like if a child has one working parent or two in their household. Earned income, or the money that comes from employment, is considered along with unearned income, like money earned from a parent’s SSD, and other assets. The process of determining income is called “deeming.”
Receiving SSI for premature birth-related complications can be an arduous process. But for children and their families who are affected by complications from a premature birth, the challenge can be worth it, as benefits can provide great relief to struggling families.
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