World Prematurity Day calls attention to the special issues facing infants born prematurely, celebrates the development and growth of older babies and children who were born prematurely, and is a great day to support members of your community who work with newborns or premature infants, or are parents adjusting with a prematurely born infant.
What is Prematurity?
A full-term pregnancy lasts between 37 and 42 weeks, and “prematurity” describes when a baby is born earlier than 37 weeks (gestational time). Prematurely born infants face many special issues, which can include breathing difficulties, feeding difficulties, and low birth weight. Prematurely born babies generally have a longer hospital stay than babies born full-term, and many end up spending time in NICU units (neonatal intensive care) or special care nurseries until it can be established that they are stable and healthy enough to be brought home. This can be a very difficult time for many families.
There are some risk factors for having a premature birth, such as the mother’s general health and lifestyle choices, and carrying multiple babies (twins or triplets), but for many mothers who deliver a premature baby, it is unexpected, with no discernible cause or identifiable risk factors- mothers under excellent prenatal care, who do everything “right” can still end up delivering their baby prematurely. If you are pregnant, it is a good idea to learn the warning signs of pre-term labor, which include cramping, regularly times contractions, and backache, and discuss pre-term labor risks and planning with your care provider. If you do believe you are experiencing pre-term labor signs, it is critical to seek medical attention right away, because there are steps that can be taken to manage, delay, or prevent a baby from being born prematurely.
Thanks to advances in modern healthcare, the prognosis for most babies born prematurely has improved dramatically. Statistically, the earlier a baby is born, the more serious his or her health problems are likely to be.
How to Celebrate World Prematurity Day
World Prematurity Day is a great time to look back on the advances there have been to pre-natal and neonatal care, and celebrate how new research and interventions have dramatically improved the probable outcomes for so many infants who are born prematurely each year. If you are pregnant, World Prematurity Day is a great reminder to discuss pre-term labor with your pre-natal care team.
Prematurely born infants often have trouble regulating body heat, so another way to celebrate World Prematurity Day would be to host a gift drive for new blankets, hats, mittens, or booties for local parents or hospitals who are welcoming prematurely born infants. You may also want to check with your local hospital to see what the needs of their nursery are, or what donated gifts would be especially useful to the parents of prematurely born infants who may have an extended hospital stay.
World Prematurity Day is also a good time to reach out to parents you may know who have babies who worn born prematurely, to see how things are going or provide them with encouragement. If you are interested in helping families who are caring for prematurely born infants, or learning more about the special issues that face those babies, you many want to reach out to your local pregnancy center, midwife, or hospital birth center.