Preterm birth is when a baby is born too early before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. Premature birth is a very serious health problem and a leading cause of death among children younger than five years worldwide. Premature babies have more health problems than babies born on time and may experience long-term health problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.
Worldwide, more than 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely each year, resulting in an estimated 15 million preterm births per year. Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born. In India, out of 27 million
babies born every year (2010 data), 3.5 million babies born are premature and over 300,000 of these preterm babies die each year because of associated complications.
The World Prematurity Day is annually observed on November 17th to raise awareness about this serious health crisis. On this day, several webinars and events are being conducted to highlight the critical importance of neonatal care during this vulnerable period of life. We at Medicircle are conducting the World Prematurity day Awareness Series wherein we will be featuring experts in this field to understand and create more awareness about premature birth.
Dr Arti Gosawi is a Director at Helios Bharti Hospital and Bharti Children and Cardio Diabetic Hospital, Pune. She holds experience of 10 years and has extensive knowledge in the respective field of medicine. Being a specialized Paediatrician, she offers a number of medical services. These include Limping Child, Genetic Diseases, Newborn Jaundice, Measles Treatment, General Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine, Bronchial Asthma Treatment among others. She is an esteemed member of INDIAN PEDIATRIC ASSOCIATION., a member of IMA PCMC and a member of ISCCM.
Causes of Premature birth
Dr Gosawi begins, “There are many categories for premature birth. They could be maternal, fetal, uterine or lifestyle causes. But in India, nutrition deficiencies before and after pregnancy are the prime cause of premature birth. Fortunately, these can be corrected. Many have folate deficiency and consuming folate tablets is administered.”
“Other causes like the mother having BP, diabetes or heart diseases increases the chance of premature birth. In uterine causes, bicornuate uterus or uterine infections can cause preterm births.”
“In today’s society lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking can also cause premature births. Going through stress or trauma also increases the chance of preterm birth. Fetal distress and having twins also causes premature births.”
Dr Gosawi adds, “Of all the causes of premature birth, some causes can be corrected and changed. These are called Correctable causes. For instance, f the mother has nutrition deficiencies. If she is suffering iron or folate deficiency, then these can be corrected with supplements.”
“But in our society, awareness regarding this is low or we tend to pay less attention to women’s nutrition. Many a time due to economic reasons too women don’t get access to the right nutrition. The government is doing its bit to correct this but more people need to be aware of this.”
How common are premature births?
Dr Gosawi says, “In India, premature births are very common. 1 in 10 babies born would be premature. This is a grave problem. As the care and maintenance of such babies go on for years.”
How to take care of one’s premature birth?
Dr Gosawi explains, “if the baby is very premature then he/she would require to spend some time in NICU. This is because their organs are not fully developed. They wouldn’t be able to maintain their body temperature and the right level of oxygen. There would be difficulty in feeding.”
“Once the baby comes home after NICU, care needs to be maintained for their temperature. Make sure the baby is feeding properly. WIthout good weight gain, around 2.5 KG, a bath should be delayed. Lotions and creams should be avoided for the 1st month.”
“Apart from this if the child is having feeding intolerance or is not gaining weight, then a doctor should be consulted. Maintain good hygiene around the child as they are prone to catching diseases and infections easily.”
Are premature births fatal?
Dr mentions, “Despite medical science advancing, prematurity by its nature is fatal. There are premature babies that do survive. But there’s a high chance of there being complications. Such complications create a high chance of mortality. Here, precaution is better than cure.”
She advises, “Before your pregnancy connect with obstetricians and gynaecologists. They will be able to detect early warning signs and give you appropriate solutions.”
(Edited by Priyal Shah)