The annual World Prematurity Day is observed on November 17. The World Health Organization (WHO), as well as numerous countries around the world continue to work to bring attention and change to the global challenge of the preterm births, which is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and the number two cause of child mortality worldwide. Each year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, that is before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Of those 15 millions, 1.1 million will die within their first year of life due to complications related to their preterm birth.
Many think of preterm birth as being an issue exclusive to developing nations, but it is also a significant problem for developed countries. The United States has one of the highest prematurity rates in the world. Dr. Craig Rubens, executive director of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s Hospital, and a study author, says that, "Getting people and funders and policymakers to understand that is a huge burden.” The U.S. has half a million preterm babies each year, and in its annual “premature birth report card,” the March of Dimes gave the U.S. a “C” for its efforts in reducing prematurity. Researches also agree that we still have a lot to learn when it comes to the causes of preterm births. Chris Howson, vice president for global programs at the March of Dimes and a preterm birth researcher and study author, shares that “We don’t know the cause of 50% of all preterm births, and we still don’t fully understand the causes and mechanisms behind the other half.”
What research does show is that there are five interventions that have been shown to reduce the preterm birth rates:
1. Discouraging elective C-sections and labor inductions unless there’s a compelling medical reason.
2. Reducing the number of embryos transferred during fertility treatment.
3. Supporting pregnant women to give up smoking.
4. Providing women with high-risk pregnancies with progesterone supplementation.
5. Performing cervical cerclage, a minor surgical procedure, on pregnant women with short cervixes.
In 2012, WHO and its partners published the Lancet report, Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, which presents the first country-by-country estimates of preterm birth. This report is a joint effort of nearly 50 international, regional and national organizations, led by the March of Dimes, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The report details more than 30 new and expanded commitments to prevention of preterm birth and to the care of preterm babies.
Based upon these findings of this report, the WHO has also committed to the following specific actions:
- to work with countries to improve the availability and quality of data on preterm births;
- to provide updated analyses of global preterm birth levels and trends every 3 to 5 years;
- to work with partners to research the causes of preterm birth, and test effectiveness and delivery approaches for interventions to prevent preterm birth and treat babies that are born preterm;
- to regularly update clinical guidelines for the management of pregnancy and mothers with preterm labour or at risk of preterm birth, and those on the care of preterm babies, including Kangaroo Mother Care, feeding babies with low birth weight, treating infections and respiratory problems, and home-based follow-up care; and
- to develop tools to improve health workers’ skills and assess the quality of care provided to preterm babies.
So while global NGOs and researchers continue their dedicated work in the discovery of the causes of preterm birth, as well as creating preventative interventions, companies like Boba continue their grassroots efforts in the communities where we live and raise our families. Like the WHO, Boba advocates for research-based Kangaroo Mother Care as an incredibly effective, life-saving arm of preterm baby care.
Kangaroo Mother Care keeps preterm babies and mothers together, so that a mother can be the primary source of physical and emotional comfort for her baby within the extended care of the medical system.
For both preterm and full-term babies, Kangaroo Mother Care:
- Mimics the environment of the womb
- Regulates body temperature
- Enhances lactation, the prevalence, and the duration of breast-feeding
- Enhances immunological protection
- Lessens crying for babies, while lowering stress and subsequently lower levels of cortisol for both parent and child.
- Enhances growth/weight gain
- Leads to shorter hospital stays
- Provides a buffer against over-stimulation
- Reduces apnea and uneven breathing
- Stabilizes heart rate
- Improves neurobehavior
- Assists in bonding process and builds attachment
- Builds parent confidence and competence
- Helps parents play an active rather than passive role in their baby’s recovery
- Provides longer periods of restful sleep
- Saves lives
- Plus, it is safe. Not one study has proven that it can harm your baby.
To learn more about Kangaroo Mother Care, please follow the links below and watch our interview from 2012 with Angela and her son, Levi.