Like many parents of twins, I have faced the prospect of having my children in Neonatal Intensive Care. We were lucky to make it to 34 weeks gestation before they were born. However complications in my pregnancy meant we faced the prospect of early delivery from about 22 weeks. We were well supported by our local Multiple Birth Club. Once they were born we saw how amazing our NZ Neonatal services are. They are phenomenal. We are so lucky. We also saw the amazing work of the Neonatal Trust and I thought with World Prematurity Day coming up soon, it would be a good time to share the following information.
About World Prematurity Day
World Prematurity Day was founded in May 2010 in New York by The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI), Little Big Souls International Charitable Foundation for Africa and March of Dimes, USA. It was officially launched and celebrated as World Prematurity Day in 2011, with the addition of National Premmie Foundation Australia, and has since grown exponentially as a global day around the world marked in more than 50 countries. The Neonatal Trust in New Zealand is one of a growing number of support organisations worldwide now aligned and supporting World Prematurity Day.
See Celine Dion’s support message from 2013 here.
Worldwide, one baby in ten is born premature: every year, about 15 million (data from 2012) children are born too early.
World Prematurity Day on 17 November aims to raise awareness of prematurity and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide because infants born preterm represent the largest child patient group. This year (2014) The Neonatal Trust will be organising a number of activities based around World Prematurity Day, including our first National Fundraiser.
What is a premature birth?
A premature birth is when a baby is born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Premature babies generally weigh less than 2,500 grams. The lowest-weight premature baby to survive was born in 2006 in the 22nd week of the pregnancy. At that point, the baby weighed 280 grams and was 24 cm long.
A problem in researching the causes is inadequate statistical and other data. The 2010 worldwide data available reveals that the most frequent causes of premature births are:
- vaginal infections are responsible for about 50 per cent of premature births. They progress up the vagina and trigger contractions which cannot be stopped;
- smoking, diet and stress can likewise be causes;
- elderly prima gravida (mother carrying her first child is older than 35 years);
- multiple births, also as a result of fertility treatments.
An early birth can mean a lifetime of disabilities
While other parents are counting happy milestones — baby’s first smile, first tooth, first steps — the parents of premature babies are counting heartbeats. Premature babies aren’t just small, they often face ongoing health challenges. More newborns die from premature birth than from any other cause.
The probability of permanent damage is high. The most common late-onset consequences are:
- developmental delays;
- chronic diseases of the respiratory tract;
- motor disorders;
- attention disorders.
Funding is needed here in New Zealand to improve the support provided to neonatal families, the people who care for them and to fund much needed research to identify the causes of premature birth, and develop treatments and preventions. Raising awareness of premature birth is the first step to defeating it. Please help us spread the word and we are always very grateful for any support.
Mummy to three small boys