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Kangaroo care, breastfeeding suggested to save preterm babies

  • Born too soon
- NAYAK PAUDEL, Kathmandu
WHO categorises such births as extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks), very preterm (28-32 weeks) and moderate to late preterm (32-37 weeks)

Nov 18, 2018-Nearly 81,000 babies are born prematurely every year in Nepal and 4,300 of them die before they reach five years due to preterm complications, which, doctors say, can be overcome with special care.

“Preterm babies require special care from health service providers and family members. In the context of Nepal, babies born after 28 weeks are very likely to survive if given special care,” said Dr Suchita Joshi, senior consultant paediatrician and neonatologist at Nepal Mediciti Hospital.

“Parents should follow Kangaroo care to provide continuous skin-to-skin contact with babies to keep them warm, exclusively breastfeed them and ensure proper nutrition and safeguard babies from any infection.”

According to paediatricians, preterm babies are likely to die early as their organs are not well-developed while in the mother’s womb. This prevents their body from functioning properly.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15 million babies are born prematurely every year, which is more than one in 10 babies worldwide. Preterm babies are those who are born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy (gestational age). WHO categorises such births as extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks), very preterm (28-32 weeks) and moderate to late preterm (32-37 weeks).

Even when preterm babies survive, they face a lifetime of disability including low IQ level, visual, hearing and dental problems, pneumonia and meningitis, warns doctors.

According to doctors, premature labour in a pregnant woman is the major reason behind preterm births.

“Mothers suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and anaemia have a high risk of facing premature labour. Similarly, multiple pregnancy, micronutrients deficiency and genital infections can also cause premature labour,” Dr Nira Singh Shrestha, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Nepal Mediciti Hospital, told the Post.

Since preterm babies have health issues lifelong, doctors suggest preventing premature labour to minimise the chances of preterm birth.

“Pregnant women should have their health examined regularly to see if they have any health issues. They should eat nutritious food to increase the amount of micronutrients in their body. Quitting tobacco products is a must,” said Dr Shrestha, adding that pregnancy at both early and old ages is another major cause of premature labour.

Recent data show that 87 out of 1,000 adolescent girls have delivered babies, 35 per cent women of child bearing age have anaemia, 9 per cent women consume tobacco, 27 per cent have hypertension and 9 per cent are diabetic.

Even as the neonatal death rate is falling in the country with 36.4 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2016, many newborns are still dying from preventable preterm complications.

The government says it is working to control premature labour to reduce births and deaths of preterm babies.

“We have focused on eradicating child marriage which leads to early pregnancy. Pregnant mothers are also provided with micronutrient supplements. We are also empowering women to deliver at health facilities so that preterm babies can get proper treatment and care since birth,” said Dr Sushil Nath Pyakurel, secretary and chief specialist at the Ministry of Health and Population.

Published: 18-11-2018 07:43

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