‘Preterm birth survivors face disabilities’

SMO says most problems witnessed in infants born in less than 32 weeks, which is 2% of all births in country

APP December 01, 2020
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. Actual practice, on the contrary, remains at an abysmal 38 per cent. PHOTO: FILE


Children under 5 years of age with preterm birth may suffer learning, visual disabilities as well as hearing disorders. Senior Medical Officer (SMO) Dr Imran Rafique told APP on Monday that in poor countries, babies born at or less than 32 weeks mostly die due to a lack of facilities related to providing warmth and cost-effective care which leads to infections and breathing difficulties. He stated that as far as the developed world is concerned, almost all of these babies survive due to availability of all required facilities necessary for the survival of premature babies.

It shows, the medic noted, there was big difference in survival of premature babies in developed and poor babies as it depends where the child was born. As far as the predisposing factors of prematurity were concerned, 40% were idiopathic while others were poor maternal health, low socioeconomic status, previous preterm birth and maternal illness like preeclampsia and diabetes mellitus. Dr Imran added that preterm babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation may have associated problems like edema of scalp, subperiosteal bleeding, bruising and nerve palsies. Furthermore, they may have clavicle, skull and long bones fracture, perinatal hypoxia, respiratory distress syndrome, apnea, low body temperature, jaundice, intraventricular hemorrhage, retinopathy, anemia, inability to suck and poor milk tolerance.

“In the later age, babies may have behavioural problems and sudden infant death syndrome.” The SMO maintained that preterm birth complications can be prevented by having a healthy pregnancy adding that special care during and before pregnancy ensures that the women will have a positive pregnancy experience. For this purpose, he recalled that all pregnant women should get regular antenatal checkup from their nearest government health facility and follow all the advice prescribed to them. “In case of unexpected chance of premature delivery before 34 weeks gestation pregnant women must receive two doses of injection corticosteroids intramuscular to decrease the severity of respiratory distress syndrome, periventricular hemorrhage and necrotising enterocolitis.”

The SMO highlighted that warmth, feeding support, Kangaroo mother care and use of safe oxygen can also help preterm babies to survive and breathe with ease. “There is an estimated 8% births every year that occur before 37 weeks gestation. Most problems are witnessed with infants born in less than 32 completed weeks, which is 2% of all births,” he concluded.


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