17 November, 2022
World Prematurity Day (17th November) is a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the sometimes devastating impact it can have on families. Globally, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely each year and that number is rising. World Prematurity Day helps to address this concern and improve the situation of preterm babies and their families.
A premature baby is one who is born too early, usually before 37 weeks. Premature birth can lead to health problems during development including physical and mental disabilities.
Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Premature births can occur for a variety of reasons. They can be caused by multiple pregnancies, advanced maternal age, infections, and conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or genetic influence. Some can occur spontaneously and for unknown reasons.
In some cases, pre-term labour is planned and induced because it's safer for the baby to be born sooner rather than later.
This could be because of a health condition in the mother (such as pre-eclampsia) or in the baby. Your midwife and doctor will discuss with you the benefits and risks of continuing with the pregnancy versus your baby being born premature.
The midwife or doctor may offer:
Slowing down labour or stopping it is not appropriate in all circumstances. Doctors and midwives will consider:
You may be offered a course of steroid injections to help your baby's lungs to get ready for breathing if they are born prematurely.
Steroids are less likely to be offered after 36 weeks as your baby's lungs are likely to be ready for breathing on their own.
If you're in premature labour and you're 24 to 29 weeks pregnant you should be offered magnesium sulphate. This can help protect your baby's brain development.
You may also be offered magnesium sulphate if you go into labour at 30 to 33 weeks pregnant. This is to protect your baby against problems linked to being born too soon, such as cerebral palsy.
If you take magnesium sulphate for more than 5 to 7 days or several times during your pregnancy, your new-born baby may be offered extra checks. Prolonged use of magnesium sulphate in pregnancy has in rare cases been linked to bone problems in newborn babies.
Babies born before full term (before 37 weeks) are vulnerable to problems associated with being born premature. The earlier in the pregnancy a baby is born, the more vulnerable they are.
It's possible for a baby to survive if born at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Babies born this early need special care in a hospital with specialist facilities for premature babies. This is called a neonatal unit. They may have health and development problems because they have not fully developed in the womb.
If your baby is likely to be delivered early, you should be admitted to a hospital with a neonatal unit.
Not all hospitals have facilities for the care of very premature babies, so it may be necessary to transfer you and your baby to another unit who are better equipped.
The UK charity, Bliss, comes together with charities from around the world to talk about premature birth in different countries and to raise awareness about the hurdles babies and parents face, and overcome, every single day.
For every thirteen babies born in the UK, one baby is born premature. Each neonatal experience will affect each family differently.
Bliss are asking parents, family members, friends, and healthcare professionals - anyone touched by the needs of premature babies - to share their #MyNeonatalStory and show families in neonatal care they are not alone.
The theme for World Prematurity Day 2022 is: "A parent's embrace: a powerful therapy. Enable skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth."
The focus is on encouraging neonatal units to encourage and enable parents to bond with their premature babies through touch, particularly via skin-to-skin holding (kangaroo care).
The colour purple is the official colour of World Prematurity Day, so wearing something purple is a wonderful way to show your support.
For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
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