World Prematurity Day
Preterm babies can survive, thrive, and change the world. But each baby must be given that chance.
In this month of November, let's light our surroundings with the purple light to enlighten our people about the importance of World Prematurity Day. World Prematurity Day is celebrated on November 16th to create awareness about the profound challenges and burdens inflicted by preterm birth worldwide. Let's explore more about premature or preterm birth and the importance of this day.
History And Definition
It was first initiated by EFCNI (European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants) and partnered with European parent organizations in 2008 to create awareness about preterm birth all over the world.
The World Health Organisation estimated that 13.4 million premature babies were born in 2020, and approximately 9,00,000 children died in 2019, which is the leading cause of death among children under five years of age.
Premature birth usually takes place more than three weeks before the estimated delivery date or estimated due date, and it occurs before the start of 37 weeks of the pregnancy. These babies usually develop more medical problems and complications due to preterm birth. Based on the birth week, preterm birth can be categorized into three:
- Extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
- Very preterm (28 to less than 32 weeks)
- Moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).
Pregnant women are often unaware of their premature delivery due to a lack of awareness. Premature delivery can be prevented by proactive measures and early diagnosis.
When To Call Your Doctor
As a pregnant woman, it is normal to have some uterine contractions throughout the day. But, if you have frequent uterine contractions (six times or more than that per hour), you need to be cautious and consult your doctor as soon as possible. Frequent uterine contractions may lead to the opening of the cervix.
6 Symptoms Of Premature Baby
- Small size with a large disproportionate head.
- Fine hair covers much of the body surface.
- Difficulty in breathing (associated with respiratory and breathing disorders).
- Feeding difficulties due to the lack of reflexes for sucking and swallowing.
- Less rounded features in comparison with normal features.
- Low body temperature (immediately after the birth due to lack of stored body fat).
6 Symptoms For Premature Delivery Mother
- Tightening of stomach muscles or birth pains every 10 minutes
- Bleeding or fluid leakage (vaginal discharge)
- Pressure in the hip or pelvic region
- Low back pain
- Feeling menstrual cramps
- Feeling abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea
Complications Faced By Premature Babies
Not every premature baby faces complications. Depending upon the condition, they can be categorized into short-term and long-term complications. Some babies develop complications soon after the birth, whereas others develop later after the birth. Let's discuss the short and long-term complications faced by premature babies.
Short Term Complications
- Respiratory problems: As they are born earlier, their respiratory mechanisms are not well developed, which leads to respiratory disorders. The lungs fail to expand or contract normally, which causes respiratory distress syndrome in many babies. These babies also develop lung disorders known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Additionally, some babies cannot breathe for a prolonged time, known as apnea.
- Heart problems: The most common heart problem associated with premature babies is patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), in which there is an opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery. If this is left untreated, it leads to irregular heart sounds and heart failure. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is commonly seen in premature babies, and it can be treated by medicines, intravenous, and blood transfusions.
- Brain problems: Premature babies have a greater chance of getting bleeding in the brain, known as intracranial hemorrhage because the blood vessels are fragile and they are more prone to rupture. Usually, smaller hemorrhages can be treated, but if there is a larger hemorrhage where the bleeding is greater, it causes permanent brain injury.
- Temperature oscillations: Premature babies lose body heat suddenly and they cannot generate compensatory mechanisms to restore the body temperature as they do not have stored body fat. If the body temperature decreases suddenly, it leads to hypothermia. It leads to low sugar levels and breathing difficulties.
- Gastrointestinal problem: It is a serious condition that is developed in premature babies because of an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system, and cells lining the bowel wall are injured after feeding. It is important to take care of premature babies by feeding only through breast milk.
- Blood problems: Premature babies usually lack red blood cells, which results in anemia and newborn jaundice due to blood disorders. Newborn jaundice causes yellowish discoloration in the eyes and skin when there is excessive bilirubin in the bloodstream.
- Metabolism problems: Premature babies are affected by hypoglycemia, which leads to cause reduced blood glucose levels, and they also lack the conversion of glucose to energy or an active form of glucose.
- Immune system problems: Preterm birth leads to poor immune systems and resistance to fight against several diseases. These babies are easily prone to infection as they have poor immune systems, and infections can easily enter into the bloodstream, causing sepsis and spread of infection to various parts.
Premature babies can develop long-term complications which are difficult to treat, and they will be present throughout their lifetime. These complications include:
- Vision problems
- Cerebral palsy
- Hearing problems
- Behavioral problems
- Impaired learning
- Dental problems
- Chronic health issues
Risk factors for premature/preterm birth
Some of the risk factors for premature delivery are given below:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Sexually transmitted infections (STD) or vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis
- High blood pressure (Preeclampsia)
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Certain developmental defects in the fetus
- Pregnancy from in-vitro fertilization
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- Consecutive pregnancy (less than six months between birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy)
- Placenta previa (placenta cover the opening of the cervix)
- Uterus rupture (prior cesarean delivery or have had a uterine fibroid removed)
- Gestational diabetes or high sugar level
- Blood clotting problems
- Age factors (women who are younger than 18 years and greater than 35 years are at risk of getting premature delivery)
- Lack of health care during pregnancy
- Using medications that affect the baby's health
- Drinking alcohol
- Using illegal drugs
- Domestic violence during pregnancy
- Lack of social support
- Long working hours (standing for long periods)
- Exposure to environmental pollutants
Prevention And Treatment
The preterm baby birth can be prevented by following the below treatment options for the pregnant mother:
- Progesterone supplements: Progesterone supplements can be given in women who have a history of giving birth to a premature child before and in short cervix patients where the risk of premature birth is reduced using progesterone supplements.
- Cervical cerclage: This procedure is performed in women with weak cervix, where the cervix is closed with sutures that provide extra support to the uterus. These sutures are removed at the time of delivery to avoid premature birth of the baby.
Call For Action
On this world prematurity day, Let's make everyone understand the importance of preventing the death of premature babies by treating the baby soon after birth. This can be achieved by spreading awareness about premature delivery to each and every pregnant woman and reducing complications by using medications and surgical procedures. To be born without defects is everyone's right; let's give it to the tiny little souls.
"The littlest feet make the biggest footprints in our hearts".