Who is a preterm baby?

A preterm baby is one delivered alive before 37 completed weeks

There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:

  • extremely preterm (less than 25 weeks)
  • very preterm (25 to 32 weeks)
  • moderate to late preterm (32 to 34 weeks)
  • late preterm (34-36 weeks)

            Burden

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year.

That is more than 1 in 10 babies. Approximately 1 million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth. Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems.

  • Statistics show that Nigeria is the third country with the greatest number of premature  births - 773 600 annually

 

Risk factors for having a preterm baby

 

  1. Poor nutrition before and during pregnancy
  2. Smoking and the use of illegal drugs
  3. Excessive consumption of alcohol
  4. Infections e.g UTI, amniotic fluid infections
  5. Premature birth in previous pregnancies
  6. Abnormalities with the uterus, cervix, and placenta
  7. Multiple pregnancies
  8. IVF pregnancies
  9. Medical conditions e.g Hypertension, Diabetes, sickle cell disease
  10. Being overweight or underweight in pregnancy
  11. Trauma

 

What are the challenges these babies face?

  1. Anemia
  2. Breathing problems-
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
  • Apnea of prematurity (AOP)
  1. Neonatal sepsis. 
  2. Intraventricular hemorrhage
  3. Neonatal jaundice
  4. Necrotizing enterocolitis
  5. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP
  6. Patent ductusarteriosus

 

Care of the preterm baby

The care of the preterm baby depends on the gestational age of the baby and the challenges the baby has. Care is individualized

  1. Prevention of infection
  2. Ensure warmth- incubator care, kangaroo-mother- care
  3. Feeding- expressed breast milk
  4. Prevention of jaundice
  5. Respiratory support

 

How can we prevent having a premature baby?

Although there are some risk factors that you cannot change, there are a few general ways in which you can reduce the odds of having a premature birth. These involve behaviors that encourage a healthy pregnancy.

 

  • Quit smoking before your pregnancy or as early as you can during pregnancy.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs.
  • Advise your health care provider of all medications that you are taking, because some may be harmful to your pregnancy and might need to be phased out.
  • Maintain an adequate amount of weight gain throughout your pregnancy, depending on what your health care provider thinks is right for you.
  • Eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet Nutrition and optimal prenatal care are especially important if you are under age 17 years, over 35 years, or carrying twins or multiple babies.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and work, and standing for long periods of time.
  • Minimize the stress in your life whenever possible, and deal with stress using relaxation techniques, exercise, nutrition, and rest.
  • Go to antenatal classes.
  • Avoid infections as much as possible.
  • If you have a history of premature birth caused by structural abnormalities of the uterus, these abnormalities may be corrected with surgery before you become pregnant.
  • Premature delivery due to an incompetent cervix can be reduced with a surgical procedure that closes the cervix from the 14th week of pregnancy until the ninth month.
  • Some chronic maternal illnesses can lead to premature birth if they are not treated properly during pregnancy. They need to be appropriately managed during pregnancy.
  • If your health care provider thinks you are at high risk for premature labor, they may suggest that you refrain from having sexual intercourse.