World Prematurity Awareness Month is observed annually in the month of November. World Prematurity Day is held on 17th November with the aim of raising awareness on the numerous challenges that preemies face. Preemies is a term that is used to refer to babies born before their due date. During this month, different stakeholders in this field also raise concern on the huge burden that preemie families carry.
Did You Know…
- That the World Prematurity Day was first initiated by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn infants (EFCNI) in 2008, alongside LittleBigSouls, March of Dimes and the National Preemie Foundation. Over the years, many more countries have joined efforts to address preterm births as a serious health issue.
- The colour purple is used to mark prematurity awareness because it symbolizes sensitivity and the exceptional journey that preemies make to come into this world.
- The socksline is the symbol for World Prematurity Awareness Day. With this socksline, there is a tiny pair of purple socks flanked by nine pairs of full baby-size socks – to show that 1 in every 10 babies is born pre-term across the world.
According to this 2018 report by WHO, it is estimated that 15 million babies are born preterm, that is before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Of these babies, more than a million do not survive owing to the health complications that surround a preterm birth.
These statistics are higher in Africa and South East Asia where more than 60% of these births occur. In fact, the report draws a comparison between the percentage of preterm babies in low & middle income countries (LMICs) and higher income countries at 12% and 9% respectively. Within the LMICs, women from low income settings are at a significantly higher risk. These findings have been documented, despite the fact that more than 50% of babies born between 32 and 37 weeks of pregnancy may not need intensive care for their survival (Source).
Preterm births in Kenya
According to the Every Preemie Scale 2019 report, 134,000 babies are born preterm in Kenya every year. Out of these preemies, 9,670 children below five years will die as a result of complications after birth. As mentioned above, 85% of babies born preterm between the 32nd and 37th week of gestation could do without intensive care, provided there are appropriate medical interventions and other solutions to ensure the health and survival of these vulnerable babies. For preemies, essential care for newborns coupled with hygiene, breathing and feeding is a matter of life and death.
These solutions typically revolve around:
- Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding
- Kangaroo Mother Care
- Care of the cord
- Hygiene to prevent infections
- Follow-up to prevent breathing difficulties
More importantly, a lot more needs to be done to educate pregnant women, families and health care workers so that preemies can get the care and support that they need to thrive.
In light of these findings, World Prematurity Awareness Month is dedicated to raising awareness on preterm births as well as the health concerns of preemies and their families. This is also an opportunity for stakeholders in the maternal field to talk about solutions available to reduce the rate of preterm births.
2023 Theme for World Prematurity Awareness Month
The World Prematurity 2023 Theme is: ‘Small actions, BIG IMPACT: Immediate skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere’. This theme underscores the importance of promoting immediate skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, for premature babies. Kangaroo care is a practice where newborns, especially premature infants, are held against their parent’s or caregiver’s bare chest, providing numerous benefits for both the baby and the parent.
The focus on encouraging neonatal units to facilitate and encourage parents to engage in kangaroo care is critical, as this practice has been shown to have several positive effects, including:
- Regulation of Body Temperature: Skin-to-skin contact helps premature infants regulate their body temperature more effectively, reducing the need for external heating.
- Stabilization of Heart Rate and Breathing: Kangaroo care can lead to more stable heart rates and breathing patterns in premature babies.
- Improved Bonding: It enhances the emotional connection between parents and their premature infants, fostering a sense of security and attachment.
- Enhanced Brain Development: Research has shown that kangaroo care may support better brain development in premature babies.
- Promotion of Breastfeeding: Skin-to-skin contact can encourage breastfeeding, as it helps babies find their mother’s breast and initiate feeding.
- Reduction in Stress and Pain: Kangaroo care can help reduce stress and pain in premature infants, leading to a more comfortable and less distressing experience.
The theme emphasizes that even small actions, such as providing skin-to-skin care, can have a profound impact on the health and well-being of premature infants. It encourages healthcare professionals, parents, and caregivers to recognize the significance of this practice and work together to ensure that every baby, regardless of their birth circumstances, receives immediate skin-to-skin care. By spreading awareness and promoting kangaroo care, World Prematurity Day aims to improve the outcomes for premature babies and support their families during this challenging time.
At Tunza Mama, we actively promote the benefits of kangaroo care, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and bonding between parents and their premature infants with our birth preparation package. Our caregivers provide guidance and assistance to parents, ensuring they understand the practice and can confidently embrace it.
We also recognize the emotional toll that preterm birth can have on parents. Our caregivers are not just there for the baby but for the family as a whole. We offer emotional support and a listening ear, helping parents navigate the often challenging journey of caring for a preemie.