The birth of a Premature baby is a an anxious moment for a family with fears and worries mostly pertaining to survival of the baby
Thankfully medicine has made it possible for many premature babies to survive and eventually lead fruitful and successful lives
Premature awareness week endeavours to bring to the fore the existence of such special babies, their challenges and the implications for the family and society at large of their existence, survival, growth and development
The Premature newborn is a fully fledged member of the society with a right to life, care and survival. Many successful individuals in the society today were once Premature babies.
According to The World Health Organisation, a Premature baby is any baby born before 37 completed weeks of gestation counting from the 1st day of the last menstrual period of the mother (WHO, 2018). Prematurity emphasizes the immaturity of the infant’s organ systems which necessitates supervised care and attention at birth.
The incidence of preterm low birth weight deliveries in the West-African sub-region is about 16%. In Nigeria it is about 18% of all deliveries with strong regional varieties. Increasing survival rates probably reflects improvement in management of premature babies.
Each year, about 15 million babies are born before term( WHO,2018) with an average of about 800,000 preterm births in Nigeria, the highest in Africa in absolute terms.
Infants born Premature are at greater risk for mortality and a variety of health and developmental problems when compared to term babies. It is a factor in about 65% of infant deaths. Complications could include but not limited to acute respiratory, gastrointestinal, immunologic and neurologic issues as well as long term motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, behavioural, social, emotional and growth problems.
Essential care of the mother and her preterm baby starts before conception with the aim of eventually preventing a pre-term birth as much as it is possible, and involves clinical and non clinical issues. Adequate and quality care within the antenatal and post natal periods cannot be overemphasized with follow up in paediatric outpatient clinic settings for possible long term outcome issues after discharge
The birth of a Premature infant brings considerable emotional and economic costs to the families.
With the demographic dynamics within Nigeria and the African region, huge challenges still remain in the successful management of premature babies—financial/economic, infrastructure, ethical and continuing education challenges for managers of neonatal intensive care units (NICU)
Policy initiatives at governmental levels with strong political will targeted at problems of the premature baby can go a long way to enhance survival rates. This, coupled with strong advocacy from healthcare professional bodies concerned with care of the Premature baby will no doubt help in creating the enabling environment for their survival, growth and development
Remember, the Premature baby has a right to life and to live.