Saturday the 17th of November is Annual World Prematurity Day. Premature birth is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under the age of five. Babies born too early are more susceptible to long-term health problems that affect the brain, the lungs, hearing or vision.
Every year, 15 million babies are born premature worldwide. More than one million of these babies die, and many more face serious, lifelong health challenges. Preterm birth is truly a problem that can happen to every one of us, irrespective of the country we live in, our culture or socioeconomic status.
Worldwide, one in ten babies are born too early. Giving birth to a child is one of the paramount, most positive experiences in life. Having a baby born too soon is a significant trauma for families. Preterm birth also represents a severe financial burden for many families due to medical expenses and our often-struggling public healthcare system.
In South Africa, neonatal facilities at hospitals are overcrowded. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Groote Schuur Hospital reports a frequent occupancy rate of 120% as opposed to the desired 80% occupation rate. This type of overcrowding may lead to an increased risk of infection and further complications for these babies.
Raising awareness of preterm birth is the first step to defeating it: preterm birth rates could be significantly reduced and lowered through overall information and improved treatment and care. According to renowned Baby and Childbirth educator, Lynne Buff, expectant moms should be aware of information related to medical conditions which could result in preterm labour and educate themselves on the signs of early labour. It is critical to consult with a midwife or obstetrician as pre-term labour can be halted in many instances.
Additionally, expectant moms should also look after themselves during pregnancy by:
- Having regular, sound antenatal care at the recommended stages of pregnancy
- Manage weight gain, around 12 kg is the average over the course of pregnancy
- Infected gums produce prostaglandins – the same hormones that initiate labour. Visit a dentist at least once during pregnancy and brush teeth at least twice a day and floss
Lynne Bluff also points out that it is however, important to realize that in the majority of premature births, there is nothing a mom could have done to prevent it from occurring.
Huggies®, a global player in the baby care industry, continues to support World Prematurity Day. This year Huggies® will be donating 500 cases of Huggies® Micro – Preemie nappies to South African Neonatal Care Units in hospitals across the country. “Huggies® Micro – Preemie nappies are tailored to fit preemie babies that are born weighing less than 800 grams or before 26 weeks. Each nappy is individually hand inspected and expertly packed in a special high-care facility to ensure the highest quality product for our precious little patients. Oversized nappies can cause the baby to lie with their legs in a ‘frog like’ position, which hampers muscle tone development. This is one of the challenging factors related to the development of premature babies’ motor skills. We are proud to be able to make these donations and to play our part in helping preemie babies,” says Nthabiseng Leso, Senior Brand Manager Huggies ®.
Members of the public can support Wear Purple for Preemies by buying a sticker for R 10.00 and wearing purple on World Prematurity Day – and by encouraging friends and family to do the same.