How celebrating World Prematurity Day can help improve outcomes for premature babies
Every year, around 15 million babies across the world are born prematurely. The average pregnancy lasts for approximately 37 to 42 weeks; babies born before 37 weeks are classed as premature. Being born before full-term can lead to a number of potentially life-threatening complications at birth and going into childhood.
World Prematurity Day, which takes place every year in November, helps highlight the issues surrounding premature birth. The event, organised by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI), will be held on the 17th.
A number of organisations and individuals from more than 100 countries across the world will join forces; with activities and events to raise awareness of preterm birth, helping improve future outcomes for babies and their families. The global theme for World Prematurity Day 2019 is ‘Born too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place.’
Advances in modern medicine and medical practices mean that outcomes are improving in some parts of the world, but this is dependent on many factors, particularly the socio-economic group of the infant and family.
Some facts about prematurity:
· Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death amongst children under five, responsible for approximately one million deaths in 2015
· Three quarters of deaths could be prevented with relatively simple, cost-effective interventions
· Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18%
· Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning, visual and hearing issues
· In low-income settings, on average, 12% of babies are born too early
· Half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (two months early) die due to a lack of feasible care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties
· In high-income settings, on average, 9% of babies are born too early. Almost all of these babies survive
· More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia
Ideally, when a baby is born prematurely, a neonatologist will transfer the infant to a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they will receive specialist care from the moment they are born. Babies receive round-the-clock care and the unit is made up of specialist staff, equipment and products developed specifically for their care. Equipment can look intimidating, many parents feel overwhelmed when they first arrive at the NICU, but every piece has its purpose and is there to help.
Incubators keep babies warm as they’re unable to regulate body temperature on their own; umbilical catheters measure blood pressure and other vital levels and can also be used to administer medicine and nutrition; specialist blankets or bodysuits regulate heat loss and breathing equipment aids ventilation in lungs that aren’t developed enough to manage breathing by themselves.
Vygon is committed to researching the best possible outcomes for preterm infants and has launched a number of life-changing medical devices that are used in NICUs. These include Surfcath™, a unique catheter for administering surfactant with the LISA method for preterm babies with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), the VYSET umbilical and PICC placement set, the Neo-HeLP heat loss prevention suit, the microsite MST insertion kit and Bionector neutral displacement needleless connector.
Using these products in the NICU helps reduce stress levels for preterm babies and families and improves medical outcomes. It’s essential that premature babies have a safe, secure environment that will give them the optimum chance of survival in their first few days. Working together, the medical industry can continue to improve worldwide outcomes for premature babies.
More than three quarters of premature babies could be saved with feasible, cost-effective care, such as essential care during childbirth and in the post-natal period and advocating a healthy pregnancy and the continuity of midwife-led care before and during pregnancy. That’s why the work of the EFCNI and World Prematurity Day is so important.
What will you be doing to raise awareness this year ?
For further information about prematurity:
- Health conditions of preterm babies: https://www.efcni.org/health-topics/in-hospital/health-conditions-of-preterm-infants/
- General information about the NICU: https://www.europeristat.com/index.php/reports/national-perinatal-health-reports.html
- Equipment in the NICU: https://www.efcni.org/health-topics/keyfacts/definitionepidemiology/
- Breastfeeding and nutrition of preterm babies: https://www.efcni.org/health-topics/in-hospital/breastfeeding-and-nutrition-of-preterm-babies/