BENGALURU: At 3.5 million, India accounted for the most preterm births in the world, followed by China (1.17 million) and Nigeria (0.77 million), according to the latest data released by WHO in 2012.
While premature birth has become a common phenomenon, there is still lack of knowledge among the would-be parents regarding the term - prematurity, and how to handle premature deliveries.
A premature or preterm baby is one born before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy. An early delivery or premature birth does not give enough time for the baby to develop completely which can result in health complications - both long term and short term.
The last few weeks are significant for the baby especially its brain and lungs. Some of the causes of premature birth include - diabetes, heart disease, previous premature delivery, multiple abortions and uterine infections.
Avoiding Premature Birth
It is mostly possible to avoid premature births by following certain steps before and during pregnancy. Some of them include:
■ Eating well and right - Having good food with adequate nutrition keeps both the mother and the baby healthy. Avoiding smoking and alcohol is a must during pregnancy and a healthy weight gain is significant too.
■ Avoid Stress - Extreme physical & mental stress may result in premature deliveries as it can cause hypertension, shooting your blood pressure than normal. It’s best to do lighter work and be in a calmer serene atmosphere while you are pregnant.
■ Your age - The best age for normal deliveries is below 35 years as beyond that would lead to complications in natural conception and further lead to premature birth.
When A Preemie Is Born
Parents of preemies more than often worry about the well-being of their baby. It is under utmost care and treatment preemies are treated in the NICUs as the few weeks post delivery is significant to ensure their complete organ developments. NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) provides suitable artificial environment for the baby to grow until it is healthy to be sent home
Here are a few tips for new parents to overcome their anxieties while leaving their baby in the NICU.
■ Understanding NICU - If you know you are at a risk of preterm or are having twins, try and get a sneak peak of the NICU during one of your visit to the hospital. Speak to the doctors as well as the staff who will help you understand better the benefits of NICU and how well the babies are being taken care of. It can be overwhelming to see the baby being monitored through quite a few electronic equipments but understanding what goes on in an NICU can help parents stay strong and support their little one.
■ Overcome your emotions - When your baby is in the NICU, you would be entangled in a mix of emotions - love, fear, anger, distress and helplessness. It is important to understand that you need to stay healthy - physically & emotionally to prepare for your baby’s homecoming. You cannot let down yourself for the situation since the premature delivery was a necessity at that point of time.
■ Be patient - The atmosphere in NICU is different. You need to be patient with yourself and your baby. Take your time to get in the comfort shoes to feel more confident with your baby especially if you are first time parents.
■ Maintain a routine - If your baby’s stay takes few months, ensure to establish a routine for yourself. It is significant to balance home life and your hospital visits. If you are a working mom or dad, that adds to your routine checklist too. Ensure to take time out for yourself and indulge in physical activities - walks, yoga, meditation etc.
■ Speak to the staff - The staff at NICU will help you in handling and taking complete care of your baby. Parenting is a learning process, and do not hesitate to ask your doubts or concerns to the staff.
■ Be Positive - It is ensure to stay positive throughout your baby’s stay at the hospital. It’s quite natural to have an anxiety on when you can return home with your angel, but that shouldn’t overpower your positivity.
With little care, the would-be parents can certainly try to prevent premature births and even if you have a preemie, it’s just a matter of time before you take your bundle of joy back home.
Medical Director, Milann -
The Fertility Center