A medical expert, Dr Gbemisola Boyede, Consultant Paediatrician and Founder of “Ask The Paediatricians Foundation”, an NGO, stressed the need for early and quality antenatal care to reduce complications affecting preterm babies.
Boyede disclosed this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Sunday, in commemoration of the World Prematurity Day, annually celebrated on November 17 to raise awareness on preterm birth and concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide.
The theme for 2019 World Prematurity Day celebration is “Born Too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place’’.
Preterm babies, also known as premature, are babies born before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy.
A 2018 World Health Organisation report states that premature birth is a leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide and may lead to health issues with long term health problems that may affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.
According to the medical expert, the day is set aside to increase awareness on preterm births, as well as deaths and disabilities due to prematurity and the simple proven cost effective measures that can prevent it.
She said: “It is important to prevent prematurity because of the difficulties babies go through to survive. The most important strategy is essential and high quality antenatal care.
“Experienced mothers, don’t do ‘too-know’ and wait unti last trimester before registering for antenatal care because each pregnancy is different. Early registration will help doctors to pick out high risk pregnancy that needs more specialist care.”
She explained that mother’s age, multiple gestation, excessive maternal activity/stress, infections and substance abuse are some of the risk factors that may lead to preterm birth.
She added that acute or chronic maternal illness, abnormalities involving the womb, detachment of the placenta, low economic status, black race, previous preterm birth, abnormal trauma/surgery are other risk factors that could contribute to preterm deliveries.
The paediatrician noted that most preterm babies’ organs were not fully matured and had sub-optimal function, hence they often encounter difficulties in adapt ing to life outside the womb.
“These problems are also related to the degree of prematurity, the more preterm the more the likelihood of problems. Some of these problems are early and some could be long term,’’ she said.
She noted that some of the early difficulties of preterm babies may include birth asphyxia with hypoxia (inadequate oxygen) especially to the brain, jaundice, poor control of body temperature, low blood sugar, infections, bleeding in the brain.