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Seeking antenatal care shields mothers from premature births

By Jacky Achan

Added 18th November 2019 11:48 AM

Each year, about 15 million babies are born prematurely before the completed week of gestation and account for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

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Dr. Shiba Nahurira, the lead pediatrician at Internationsl Hospital Kampala addressing people at an event to celebrate World Prematurity day at the Hospital. PHOTO: Jacky Achan

Each year, about 15 million babies are born prematurely before the completed week of gestation and account for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

 
 
Sarah Nakasiire is a mother of three, but one of her babies was born prematurely. Giving birth prematurely intensely affected Nakasiire, she suffered from anxiety.  
 
“I faced emotional, psychological, and financial pressure to physical breakdowns. I would not sleep at night. Each time the phone rang, I would get goosebumps all over my body. My heart would beat fast and my legs would get weak, wondering if my child is ok in hospital,” she disclosed.
 
“I can testify that it takes a lot of strength to have and raise a premature baby” she stated during a function to mark World Prematurity Day in Kampala.
 
The status
 
Each year, about 15 million babies are born prematurely before the completed week of gestation and account for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.
 
Having a premature baby is something mothers do not want to experience.
 
November 17, each year is World Prematurity Day. It aims to raise awareness on preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide.
 
Preterm is a baby born before maturity. World Prematurity Day focuses global attention on complications from preterm birth, the leading cause of child deaths under age five.
 
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), complications from preterm birth account for nearly one million deaths in children each year.
 
Dr. Shiba Nahurira the Lead Pediatrician at International Hospital Kampala (IHK) says preterm births are closely linked to health conditions such as high blood pressure, the abnormal placenta of the fetus and infections.
 
Also, chances of preterm recurrence are also high if a mother has chronic diseases such as sickle cells and diabetes plus where expecting mothers abuse drugs.
 
Where does the solution lie?
 
The World Prematurity Day 2019 theme is: “Born Too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”
 
In Uganda, data from the Ministry of Health indicate that over 200,000 or 14% of Ugandan babies are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks gestation, annually.
 
The same data source reveals that complications of preterm birth are directly responsible for 31% of Uganda’s neonatal deaths, and many of the preterm babies who survive face a lifetime of disability.
 
But that should not be the case, according to Dr. Nahurira. She says it is important for any expectant mother to go for antenatal care so that health workers can identify preterm causing conditions that are treatable.
 
Dr. Victoria Nakibuuka, another specialist in neonatal care stated that 80% of the premature babies born in urban places in Uganda are able to survive from a period of five months and above.
 
She attributes their survival to among other the equipped neonatal facilities in hospitals including IHK and Mulago.
 
However, the majority of the preterm babies in rural areas, do not survive due to a lack of access to proper medical care and good facility.
 
“Uncountable preterm babies in rural areas do not live to see a second day on earth. There is a need to intensely create awareness that preterm babies can survive. We need to let mothers living in rural areas to know,” Dr. Nakibuuka says.
 
Without major efforts to reduce these deaths, the global goal by 193 countries to end all preventable newborn and child deaths by 2030 will not be reached.

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