'It takes a village to raise a child': World Prematurity Day celebrated

Sunday 17 November is Annual World Prematurity Day, and is recognised by parents, doctors, nurses and more who come together to celebrate the courage and inner fighting spirit of premature babies.

Pre-term birth and the effects thereof is a subject rather avoided by pregnant women and families who choose to believe their children will be born at the customary nine-month term.

When least expected

However, pre-term birth often 'springs' upon families when least expected.

The effects placed on children during the developmental to advanced stages of their mothers’ pregnancies could potentially result in numerous challenges during the infant’s developmental stages of their lives.

Awareness needs to be created around pre-term birth and this year Huggies® and Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital hosted an event for over 70 parents who have been affected by pre-term birth.  

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb

This popular phrase was given to the World Prematurity Day Event hosted at Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in collaboration with Preemie Connect and Huggies®, which welcomed over 70 parents of which have premature babies.

They were joined by various spokespersons sharing their experiences and knowledge of their extreme stresses, heartache and challenges that come with having a premature baby.

A global challenge

Project Manager of the event and Preemie Connect, Ntombizodwa Tshabalala explained that awareness and lessons around prematurity is paramount, since prematurity has become a global challenge.

Lynne Bluff, Huggies® professional nurse and midwife explained the medical conditions that accompany a premature baby and mothers’ who have experienced such an ordeal.

She explained that the normal length of a pregnancy is 40 weeks long, and a prem baby is when it is born before 37 weeks. A baby can survive, with a very small chance, outside the womb from 24 weeks onwards.

Depending on how early a baby is born, he or she may be:

  • Late preterm, born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of pregnancy;
  • Moderately preterm, born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Very preterm, born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Extremely preterm, born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy.

Risk factors that can lead to having a prem baby include:

Smoking,

Alcohol,

Drug use,

Vaginal infections,

Urinary tract infections,

Stress,

Obesity,

Multiple babies such as twins and triplets,

Pregnancy complications like: Diabetes, Hypertension, Placenta praevia, and having pregnancies close together and not spaced apart.

 “It is also very important you go for your regular check-ups while you are pregnant so they can pick up any problems early on rather than waiting till you and your baby are in danger, particularly from high blood pressure in pregnancy,"  she urged parents. 

Also read: “Too many mothers are throwing away life-saving breastmilk”: Why you should consider becoming a breastmilk donor

Signs and symptoms of premature labour include:

  • Lower back ache
  • Contractions – regular every 10 minutes
  • Lower abdominal cramps like period pain
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Bloody show – mucous discharge
  • Lower abdominal pressure

54 days in NICU

Tasmin Botha, a preemie mother from Preemie Connect, shared her experiences and story to raise awareness around prematurity.

She described how her child was born 2 months premature and spent 54 days in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her premature pregnancy was due placenta abruption, which caused bleeding on the baby's brain.

950 grams

Tevin du Toit, a spokesman at the event who was born at 28 weeks, weighed in at 950 grams and was 22cm in length at birth shared how one wouldn’t say he was born prematurely with cerebral atrophy, a kind of brain damage, which contributed to motor coordination problems, partial paralysis of the left side of the body, speech impairment as well as deafness in both ears.

He said that his mother and grandmother played a significant role in getting him where he is today, and the importance of a support structure is imperative in overcoming the challenges that premature babies and parents are faced with.

Show of support

In support of preemie parents, Huggies® donated 300 cases of Huggies® Preemie nappies, valued at R 198 000.00 to Thelle Mogoerane, Chris Hani (Baragwanath) and George Mokhari Hospital.

“We understand what preemie parents go through and we are proud to be able to make this donation to play our part in helping preemie babies thrive,” Caitlin Meredith, Senior Brand Manager Huggies®, said.

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8 out of 100 babies are born too soon in SA: You can help 

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