Providing solutions for pre-term pregnancy issues
More than three quarters of premature babies can be saved with feasible, cost-effective care, such as essential care during childbirth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby. There must be provision of antenatal steroid injections (given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labour to strengthen the babies’ lungs). Kangaroo mother care is also recommended (the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding).
Again, antibiotics should be provided to treat newborn infections and there must be continuity of midwifery-led care in settings where there are effective midwifery services to reduce the risk of prematurity by around 24%.
Preventing deaths and complications from preterm birth:
This starts with a healthy pregnancy
Quality care before, between and during pregnancies will ensure all women have a positive pregnancy experience.
Counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition
Fetal measurements including use of ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies
A minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy to identify and manage other risk factors, such as infections
Why does preterm birth happen?
Better understanding of the causes and mechanisms will advance the development of solutions to prevent preterm birth. Common causes of preterm birth include:
Chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure
However, often no cause is identified
There could also be a genetic influence
Where and when does preterm birth happen?
More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth is truly a global problem
In the lower-income countries, on average, 12% of babies are born too early compared with 9% in higher-income countries
Within countries, poorer families are at higher risk