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Apnea of Prematurity


Apnea of prematurity is an episode when a premature baby stops breathing for 15 to 20 seconds. Premature babies are born earlier than 37 weeks, before certain parts of the body have fully formed. Apnea may happen when the part of the brain that controls breathing is affected. It may also happen from weak airway and breathing muscles. Most premature babies outgrow apnea after a few weeks.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


may be given to make blood flow and breathing faster.


  • A cardiorespiratory monitor counts your baby's breaths and heartbeats. It will sound an alarm if the number goes too low.
  • A nasal thermistor checks for airflow through the nose This helps detect apnea due to a block in the airway.
  • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your baby's blood. Do not turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

A nasogastric (NG) tube

may be inserted into your baby's nose and into his or her stomach. An NG tube will either be used for suction or to feed your baby. Your baby may need this tube for feeding if he or she has problems eating. Try not to let your baby pull on the NG tube. Tell a healthcare provider if the tube comes out of your baby's nose.

Respiratory care:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is used to keep your baby's airway open during sleep. Your baby wears a mask over his or her nose. The mask is held in place by soft elastic straps that go around your baby's head. The mask is hooked up to the CPAP machine. The machine blows a gentle stream of air into the mask when your baby breathes. The stream of air helps keep his or her airway open so he or she can breathe more regularly. Extra oxygen may also be given through the machine.
  • An endotracheal (ET) tube may be used to help your baby breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator.
  • Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Suction is a small tube that is placed in your baby's mouth or nose. This tube will help suck out the liquid in your baby's mouth, nose, and lungs. This may help your baby breathe easier.


Apnea of prematurity can be life-threatening if it is not controlled.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Apnea of Prematurity (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.