November is Prematurity Awareness Month. November 17 is observed as World prematurity day to raise awareness about preterm births, concerns associated with such babies and their families around the world. So this month let us understand what prematurity is all about.

What is prematurity?

A preterm baby or a preemie refers to one born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies have specific health problems and may need a longer than usual hospital stay. Some babies even require care in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Can we reduce the risk of premature birth?

Having a preterm baby in the past, multiple pregnancies, problems with the uterus or cervix are risk factors that cannot be modified. However there are certain things that can be done to reduce the risk of preterm labour.

  • Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Healthy lifestyle – Avoid smoking and alcohol. Reduce stress and keep yourself active.
  • Never miss your prenatal care checks.
  • Get screened and treated for medical problems like diabetes, hypertension and thyroid problems.

What are the health problems associated with prematurity?

The earlier the baby arrives, the smaller it will be. Thus, the foremost challenge posed by prematurity is low birth weight. Being tiny poses risks of low oxygen levels at birth, inability to maintain body temperature, feeding difficulty and infection.

In addition they have problems resulting from immature organ development and function because these babies are born before their bodies are ready to leave the womb. For example, preterm babies are at risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome because they have less of a complex highly surface active material called surfactant in the lungs. They are prone to develop Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) which is a problem with the baby’s intestines. They develop jaundice when the liver isn’t fully mature. They do not make enough red blood cells which results in anaemia.

Such problems require special attention and who could possible care for such high-risk babies better than a “Neonatologist”! The pediatrician can manage common health problems of newborns. However a Neonatologist is trained specifically to handle the most complex and high-risk situations in special care nurseries.

In the eventuality of a premature birth you will have a lot to do as your little one grows and heals in the nursery. As important as this NICU care is, the stay there may be overwhelming. Our team of obstetricians, neonatologists, paediatricians and newborn nursing care personnel here at Kauvery, will make sure you sail smooth through this journey. After all it is all about bringing your bundle of joy home!

Dr. Lakshmi Prashant Murli
Consultant Pediatrician
Kauvery Hospital

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