PREMATURE BIRTH: Commissioner for Health addresses C’ Riverians in a most candid way

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Coco-bassey Esu|19 November 2016


On 17th November 2016 the world celebrated the 6th World Prematurity Day. This has grown into one of the important dates to raise awareness for the challenges of preterm birth. Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) and this number is rising.

Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age responsible for nearly one million deaths in 2015. Three quarters of them would be saved with current, cost effective interventions.

The prevalence of preterm birth constitutes a public health problems but unlike many health problems. It result in significant health consequences to the infant and emotional and economic costs for families and communities.

Preterm births have been classified into three separate subgroups according to clinical presentation:
(1)- Births occurring after spontaneous premature labor, related to premature contractions (50% of cases).
(2)- Spontaneous rupture of the membranes (roughly 30% of cases).
(3)- Indicated delivery of a premature infant for the benefit of either the infant or the mother (about 20%of cases).

Infants born prematurely face a number of challenges. Their bodies and nervous system may not have fully developed, which can cause complications such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy and other medical conditions.

In addition, the mother's womb shields the fetus from infections and various abnormalities, premature birth removes these protections and hence many premature babies must stay in newborn intensive care units.

The lower the birth weight of the child, the higher the risk for cerebral palsy. Low birth weight (LBW) means a child was born weighing less than 2500 grams and is at a significant risk for developing cerebral palsy. Many healthy babies are born at a low birth weight, sometimes babies are just small with no reason for concern. Other times, low birth weight may be an indication that the baby has not finished developing.

Very low birth weight is a subset of low birth weight occurring when a baby is born weighing less than 1500 grams. Many very low birth weight children are also born premature. Prematurity is in itself, a risk factor for cerebral palsy.

*A family or personal history of premature labor.
*Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby.
*Being overweight or underweight before pregnancy.
*Not getting good prenatal care.
*Drinking alcohol or using street drugs during pregnancy.
*Having health conditions such as high blood pressure, pre eclampsia, diabetes, blood clotting disorders or infections.
*Being pregnant with a baby that has certain birth defects.
*Being pregnant with a baby from in vitro fertilization.
*Being pregnant with twins or other multiples.

Warning signs of premature labor………..
*Backache usually at the lower back.
*Contractions every 10 minutes or more often.
*Cramping in your lower abdomen or menstrual – like cramps.
*Fluid leaking from the vagina
*Present of nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.
*Vaginal bleeding including light bleeding.

*Place your fingertips on your abdomen.
*If you feel your uterus tightening and softening, that is contraction.
*Time your contractions. Write down the time when a contraction starts, and write down the time at the start of the next contraction.
*Try to stop the contractions. Get off your feet, change your position. Relax, drink two or three glasses of water.
*Call your doctor or trained midwife if you continue to have contractions every ten minutes or more.

Cross River State Health sector with Federal agencies and other developing partners and donors will continue to strengthen collaborations in improving the method of identifying and treating women at risk for preterm labor and infant born preterm with intensive care services.

Coco-bassey Esu
Writes from Calabar

Efio-Ita Nyok