Premature birth otherwise known as preterm birth is the situation whereby a baby is born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy. When we talk about countries that have the highest recorded number of premature births India ranks first, followed by China then Nigeria in the third position. In every 10 baby deliveries there is bound to be one premature birth.
An estimation of about 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. Almost one million of these children die every year. Premature babies thrive so hard to be alive than babies who are born later, this could result to a very serious health challenge and eventually death. Preterm birth could be sub categorized into the following:
- extremely preterm (<28 weeks)
- very preterm (28 to <32 weeks)
- moderate to late preterm (32 to <37 weeks).
This grouping is based on gestational age, or how long the pregnancy lasted.
Preterm Birth Statistics
Although preterm birth is a global problem, it happens more in Africa and South Asia, Below is an overview of the global preterm statistics.
Countries with the highest number of preterm births
- India: 3 519 100
- China: 1 172 300
- Nigeria: 773 600
- Pakistan: 748 100
- Indonesia: 675 700
- The United States of America: 517 400
- Bangladesh: 424 100
- The Philippines: 348 900
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo: 341 400
- Brazil: 279 300
Countries with high rate of preterm baby survival (per 100 births)
- Malawi: 18.1 per 100
- Comoros: 16.7
- Congo: 16.7
- Zimbabwe: 16.6
- Equatorial Guinea: 16.5
- Mozambique: 16.4
- Gabon: 16.3
- Pakistan: 15.8
- Indonesia: 15.5
- Mauritania: 15.4
Problems of preterm birth
Premature birth is the major causative factor of death in children under the age of 5. Unfortunately, premature birth is rapidly increasing with time. In developing countries, half of the babies born prematurely (atleast 2 months earlier) die as a result of cost-effective care such as breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. While in high-income countries, virtually all the premature babies survive,
Causes of preterm birth
There are so many causes of premature birth. Preterm birth is a spontaneous incident. However here are some common causes of preterm birth:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure
However, in most cases preterm birth just happens for unidentified cause. This could be genetic.
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Just as we have seen, these babies could actually be saved with feasible, cost-effective care such as :
- Care during child birth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby.
- Availability of antenatal steroid injections (this could be given to pregnant women who are at risk of preterm labor and under set criteria to strengthen the lungs of the baby),
- Kangaroo mother care ( situation whereby the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding
- Treatment of infections with antibiotics.
Healthy pregnancy period is the major key to avoid deaths and preterm birth complications. It is important that pregnant women are given quality care before, between and during pregnancies. WHO’s Antenatal Care guidelines helps a very long way to prevent preterm birth, some of them are :
- Counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition.
- Counselling on tobacco and substance use.
- Use of ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies.
- A minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy to identify and manage other risk factors, such as infections.
- Better access to contraceptives and increased empowerment could also help reduce preterm births.
Ensure you take good care of yourself during pregnancy, and if you you are a husband or a male reader, please treat the pregnant women with caution. Let us save these babies. They want to live