Experts call for better awareness, early care to reduce neonatal deaths

 Doctors say with better awareness on preventing teenage pregnancies, infections during birth, and identifying congenital defects and early healthcare intervention may bring the deaths to zero. 
Awareness being raised among new mothers to observe National Newborn Week from Nov 15 to 21 at Stanley Government Hospital in Chennai on Tuesday | r satish babu
Awareness being raised among new mothers to observe National Newborn Week from Nov 15 to 21 at Stanley Government Hospital in Chennai on Tuesday | r satish babu

CHENNAI: As the country observes National Newborn Week from November 15 to 21, experts say neonatal deaths can be brought to zero in the State with better awareness and early healthcare interventions. Doctors say with better awareness on preventing teenage pregnancies, infections during birth, and identifying congenital defects and early healthcare intervention may bring the deaths to zero. 

Director of Institute of Social Paediatrics, Government Stanley Hospital, Dr Rema Chandramohan, said awareness should be raised among parents on breastfeeding and regular donations to milk banks. “The lactation capacity may decrease for the pregnant mothers if they stop breastfeeding even temporarily when the baby is in a premature state.

So, they must be made aware to donate to the milk bank and when the baby recovers, the mother can return to normal breastfeeding,” said Dr Rema, who is also the president of the State Neonatology Association. She said cases of teenage pregnancies too were being reported regularly and this led to under-nourished children being born in a premature state.

As part of the New Born Week, the Stanley hospital conducted many awareness activities on safe nursing practices and the Kangaroo mother care concept. “This means, the premature child is placed in skin-to-skin contact with mother and it helps in bonding as well as faster recovery for the child,” said Dr Rema. 

Senior Consultant, Neonatal & Paediatrics, Gleneagles Global Health City, Dr Shreela Pauliah, said with a rise in literacy level among the mothers and their families, the premature deaths may come down. “In the rural areas, not all deliveries happen in hospitals, and this leads to the child getting infections. The risk of infection is very high in the neonatal month,” she said.

In addition, cultural practices such as giving honeywater, sugarwater, or donkey’s milk to babies persist here. Mothers are told by their relatives not to feed them breastmilk. All these put the child at high risk, Dr Shreela added. 

Senior Consultant, Paediatrician, Be Well Hospitals, Dr Vennela K, said if we prevent infections during childbirth, 99 per cent of the premature deaths would stop. “Mothers, who may have hypertension and gestational diabetes, must stay close to a hospital as they need regular check-ups with a gynaecologist.”

Dr Vennela said a parent must be in coordination with a paediatrician and a gynaecologist simultaneously before the delivery as it may help to anticipate premature delivery. “This may help in early intervention as well. Using steroids would improve the lung maturity of the child while giving magnesium sulfate would protect the child’s brain,” she added 

A senior professor of Paediatrics at Government Stanley Hospital, Dr Ganesh, said people can use the free facilities for neonatal care provided at the hospital. “It may cost several thousand for mothers to admit their child for neonatal issues at private hospitals and it may be a financial burden for many. This hospital has an inborn unit at RSRM hospital and outborn unit at the Social Paediatrics department with state-of-art life-saving equipment,” he said.

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