seven primary causes of nec in premature babies
Diet Health & Wellness

Seven Primary Causes of NEC in Premature Babies

NEC is highly prevalent in preterm babies. It’s estimated to affect one in every 1,000 preterm newborns, which is far more than the incidence of NEC among full-term infants, i.e., 1 in 10000 babies.

Premature babies are less able to fight off infections or complications. This leads to an inflamed bowel (colon). Also, their digestive system hasn’t reached full maturity yet, so their intestines aren’t as strong as those of full-term infants.

Likewise, here are the most common causes of NEC in premature babies:

Maturation of the Immune System

Preterm infants are at higher risk of NEC. The immunity is not prepared to resist disease. The immune response of a newborn does not fully develop until they are approximately two to three months old.

Until this time, their bodies are still considered “foreign” by their immune systems. They often cannot fight off foreign bodies such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites that enter their intestinal tract. The foreign microbes then lead to inflammation in the intestines, resulting in necrotic enteritis (NEC).

Unhelpful Microbes

Many types of microorganisms live in the intestines, some of which can be helpful, while others are harmful. The harmful bacteria can cause infection and inflammation in your baby’s digestive tract if they get into their system. Eventually, they can also cause NEC.

The number one sources of these harmful microbes include a formula diet. If you give your child cow’s milk or related products at an early age, their body builds up unhelpful microbes. The build-up of triggers NEC. It is, therefore, preferable to give them cow’s milk only when they are at least a year old. It’s when their bodies develop better immunity against diseases such as these.

However, it is a general tendency of parents and people in general to trust their doctor’s opinion and prescription. Giving your baby cow’s milk-based formula food and trusting the doctor is not your fault.

It’s your baby’s doctor’s responsibility not to prescribe in the first place. Most importantly, it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to warn you. You should slap the maker with an NEC baby formula lawsuit in such a scenario.

With the help of an experienced attorney, you can win the case and receive compensation for the medical expenses of your child’s NEC treatment.

Medical Supplies Used During Delivery

Medical supplies used during delivery can also contribute to NEC. The most common medical supplies associated with NEC include:

  • Forceps
  • Vacuum extractors
  • Umbilical clamps

These instruments are inserted into the baby’s anus or abdomen to aid delivery. Still, when misused, they can cause damage by tearing the tissue and creating holes between the intestines and abdominal wall. This can cause bacteria to enter these wounds and trigger infection. To prevent this from happening, it’s vital that doctors only use such instruments when necessary and very cautiously.

If you suspect your child has suffered from NEC due to exposure to one of these medical supplies used during delivery while still in utero, file a lawsuit against whoever may have been responsible for using them on your preterm baby.

Poor Blood Flow

Inadequate blood flow to the intestines can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Surgeries like c-section deliveries.
  • Lowering of blood vessels. This can happen because of prematurity or simply because your baby is small and has fewer organs than he would have had at full term.
  • Hemorrhage after birth happens when placental membranes bleed into the amniotic fluid.
  • Preeclampsia is a disease that affects 1 in 25 pregnant women. It damages the organ and shoots up the BP. It may also lead to slower gastrointestinal motility in premature babies due to poor circulation from damage caused by preeclampsia.

The Use of Serial X-Ray Studies to Monitor Lung Function

According to the National Institutes of Health, serial X-ray studies can damage the intestines, leading to NEC. For example, MRI scans are used to monitor the lungs of premature babies with low blood flow due to bleeding into their brains or lungs. MRI scans require high levels of radiation.

Resort to this only when necessary. Using serial X-ray studies to monitor lung function may also cause severe complications for your baby and should be avoided wherever possible.

Low Body Weight

Premature babies weighing less than 3 pounds and 4 ounces (1,500 grams) are highly susceptible to NEC. This is because the premature infant’s immune system is not yet fully developed and, therefore, unable to fight off infections in the gut.

In addition, low birth weight babies tend to have less mature digestive tracts, which makes them more vulnerable to damage from toxins and bacteria that can cause NEC.

Finally, it should be noted that low body weight is associated with a more impaired immune system function and thus increases a premature baby’s likelihood of developing diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis.

Seek Professional Help

If your baby has any symptoms of NEC, seek professional help immediately. This is one of the primary causes of sickness and death in preterm newborns, accounting for 15-40% of baby deaths.

If you have any questions about your baby’s health or concerns about her condition after delivery, please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.


In conclusion, you must keep a close eye on your baby if they are born prematurely. Many things can cause this condition, which can be challenging to diagnose. However, learning about NEC and its symptoms in advance can save your baby from this terrible disease.

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