World Prematurity Day: #GiveThemTomorrow

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World Prematurity Day is observed on November 17 each year. From 2008 when it was first observed in Europe, the campaign has since received global attention and interest, with the aim to raise awareness about the issues associated with premature or preterm birth.

The campaign highlights the need for health professionals and organizations, policy makers, media, as well as other groups of interest to be play advocacy about preterm birth while also taking initiatives to help or support affected families.

Who is a preterm baby?

The World Health Organization defines a preterm baby as a baby born alive before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Depending on how early the baby is born, he or she may be: Late preterm, that is born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy; Moderately preterm, born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy; Very preterm, born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy or Extremely preterm, born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy.

Although preterm children are more likely to have conditions like infection, low blood sugar, low body temperature, or have breathing problems, doctors are able to cater well for them and help them to live healthy normal lives just as other children.

Statistics

Premature birth is a very serious health problem. Globally, 15 million babies are born too soon every year and out of this figure 113,500 of these births occur in Ghana making us the 25th country with the largest number of preterm births globally. Out of this, 113,500 preterm births, 8000 die from associated complications. That is, one out of every three births among new born babies. (Blencowe H. et al, 2012).

Many of those that survive face a lifetime of disability including; learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems.

What factors may cause you to have preterm birth?

In some cases the cause is unknown. However, common causes of preterm birth may include extremes of age, multiple pregnancies, and infections. Also, with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension preterm delivery is an intervention necessary to save the life of both mother and baby.

How can you prevent preterm birth?

  • Good preconception care like family planning (birth spacing), good nutrition to prevent anaemia and boost immunity and prevention of STDs
  • Proper antenatal care to detect high blood pressure and diabetes and provide targeted care for women at increased risks of preterm birth.
  • Educate women against smoking and alcohol. Also, reduce stressful working conditions for pregnant women.

What must you do when you have a preterm labour?

When you notice lower abdominal pains before term, please do not panic, report to your doctor immediately. Your doctor may decide to carry out any of the following:

  1. Give you drugs (tocolytics) to slow down labour or if possible completely stop the labour process.
  2. You may also be given steroids - this would help to speed up the baby’s lung development before delivery.
  3. You may also need antibiotics if your ‘water’ has already broken.

What happens to your preterm baby?

Usually preterm babies are treated at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) depending on the severity of his or her condition. Here, you may notice equipment such as phototherapy units, ventilators, feeding tubes, oxygen saturation monitors, temperature monitors etc. All these are to help your baby survive. Your baby needs good nutrition and you can still breastfeed or bottle-feed depending on doctor’s advice.

The baby also needs your touch in form of the kangaroo mother care and baby may also be given antibiotics. After baby is discharged and is with you at home,

  • Choose a paeditrician for follow up care.
  • Limit visits to public places for the first few weeks to only the doctor’s office and limit the number of visitors too
  • Put your baby too sleep on the back with the head tilted to the side
  • Practice kangaroo mother care
  • Take care of yourself!

Courtesy: Dr. Wereko-Dankwa and Dr. Ampaw, Medifem Hospital