Having a preterm baby isn’t as bad as you think it is
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising. (www.who.int)
A study has confirmed that women over 40 have the highest risk of preterm births. About 7.8 per cent of pregnant women above 40 will result in preterm births and 1 per cent will end in extremely premature deliveries. Although some school of thought debunk the fact that age has anything to do with it but studies show differently as it shows a decline in women 30 – 34 years as only 5.7 per cent have preterm deliveries and 0.6 results in extremely early arrivals. (Reuters Health).
The reason being that most women above 40 suffer from various health issues that can cause preterm births; Issues arising from medical history, or health issues like placenta previa, obesity, pregnancy-related diabetes or high blood pressure, plus the use of assisted reproduction technologies and occurrence of invasive procedures.
It is a fact that maternal childbearing age has dramatically shifted in the last decades due to an extensive range of cultural and social determinants and it is no different in Africa. More women seek better education and are career-driven hence relegate marriage and childbearing to a later age. No wonder preterm births are prevalent in Africa.
According to WHO, more than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia with a total of 773,600 known cases in Nigeria making Nigeria the 3rd in the rank of countries with higher cases. It was also noted that a great percentage of preterm births lead to death amongst children under 5 years of age or to other birth complications like hearing hand visual deficiency and learning disability amongst other ailments.
Funny thing is that most of it can be avoided.
Preventing deaths and complications from preterm birth starts with you ensuring you have a healthy pregnancy; regular antenatal care, eating a balanced diet, simple short exercises and taking your prenatal medications. Having quality care before, between and during pregnancies will ensure you have a positive pregnancy experience.
WHO’s antenatal care guidelines include key interventions to help prevent preterm birth, such as counselling on a healthy diet and optimal nutrition, avoidance of tobacco and substance use; fetal measurements including use of ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies. They also advised that we should have a minimum of 8 contacts with our physician throughout our pregnancy to enable quick detection of and manage other risk factors, such as infections that can occur.
They also advised that better access to contraceptives and increased empowerment could also help reduce preterm births.
Generally, women should not have a caesarian done on pregnancy less than 39 weeks old as this can result in the present and future preterm births.
Guidelines to improve preterm birth outcomes
WHO has developed new guidelines with recommendations for improving outcomes of preterm births. This set of key interventions can improve the chances of survival and health outcomes for preterm infants. The guidelines include interventions provided to the mother – for example steroid injections before birth, antibiotics when her water breaks before the onset of labour, and magnesium sulfate to prevent future neurological impairment of the child – as well as interventions for the newborn baby – for example thermal care, feeding support, kangaroo mother care, safe oxygen use, and other treatments to help babies breathe more easily.
Yes, you can have a healthy preterm baby if you take proper care after a preterm birth; ensure you are registered with a hospital that has successfully handled preterm cases so you are sure you are in good hands as they will better prepare you for it.