Together for babies born too soon – Caring for the future.

Babies are so cute and everyone gushes over them, however some come a little bit too soon. Today, (World Prematurity Day) is all about this special babies.

A premature baby or a preemie, is a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy (a full-term pregnancy takes about 40 weeks). A preemie is exposed to certain medical complications and the earlier the birth, the more “at risk” they are.

Premature births do not exactly have a specific cause but may be triggered by certain health conditions of the mother such as diabetes, liver, kidney or heart disease.

Lifestyle triggers such as alcoholism, smoking, use of illicit drugs and malnourishment before and during pregnancy, etc. have been identified. A contributing factor to preterm birth in developing countries such as Nigeria is maternal infection with the malaria parasite.

Systemic Issues in Nigeria

Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal deaths especially in rural parts of developing nations where there is a lack of proper funding and inadequate infrastructure in available health care facilities to take care of preemies.

Also, the difficulty in accessing hospitals and clinics has led to the heavy reliance on local maternity centers, traditional birth attendants and prayer houses for medical attention during delivery.

On a positive note, there is hope for preemies, as they often catch up in height and weight by two years of age despite their initial slower rate of growth.

Families with preemies need enough support as it could be traumatic for them. Enough support should be given to the health system via funding so that healthcare professionals can provide better care for these special babies.

Every year, 15 million babies are born prematurely- more than one in ten of all babies in the world. Complications from preterm birth accounts for nearly 1 million deaths each year (UNICEF).

Families, healthcare systems and the leadership of nations must come together to provide the “major push” needed to reduce these deaths. That way, our future as well as the future of our babies will be well taken care of.

Sika, Emily Ditari

References:

www.mayoclinic.org

www.healthline.com

www.stanfordchildrens.org

www.healthynewbornnetwork.org