Tuesday, November 17th sees organisations and families around the world raise awareness of the complexities associated with premature birth.
In Australia, over 27,000 babies, 9% of all births are born prematurely every year, and prematurity remains the number 1 cause of neonatal deaths worldwide. 76 premature babies are born every day around Australia.
A preterm baby, one born before 37 weeks gestation will often need extra help with their temperature, breathing and feeding once outside the mother’s womb. Usually, these babies will be admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or a Special Care Nursery (SCN) due to the complexities associated with being premature.
One in every 5 babies born requires some form of resuscitation at birth and when premature will often suffer one if not further complications as a result of entering the world too soon.
These complications can include
- Respiratory distress syndrome, the most common illness seen in an NICU,
- Sepsis; serious infections,
- Severe bleeding of the brain,
- Necrotizing enterocolitis; affects the babies bowels and causes feeding issues,
- Retinopathy of prematurity, an abnormality affecting the babies eyes,
- Patent ductus arteriosus; open blood vessel near the babies heart,
- Apnoea; breathing stops for a short term, and
- Temperature control difficulties.
Every week of pregnancy provides a critical development milestone for survival.
Causes for why babies are born prematurely are still not fully understood, making it difficult to predict or prevent premature labour. When a child decides to enter the world early the cause isn’t always identified, however, some of the known causes of early labour include;
- Carrying more than one baby
- An interval of fewer than six months between pregnancies
- Having a previous premature birth
- Maternal or foetal stress during pregnancy
- Some conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
When a baby is born premature families are unprepared for the often traumatic and emotional journey ahead. Life’s Little Treasures Foundation is Australia’s foremost charity providing vital ongoing support to families in hospital and continuing once the child goes home.
This support includes
- A complete information hospital folder – The Guiding Hand, written by parents of premature children and medical specialists.
- Two smartphone apps,
- NICU Words, a comprehensive glossary and definition resource of words and terms used by medical professionals and
- Premature Baby Journal, an app that captures the family’s daily journey in words and photos.
- Books n Bubs program that supports reading to an infant and siblings in the hospital.
- Assistance with travel, accommodation and food vouchers for those families struggling with their new medical costs.
- Treasure Time playgroups; peer support groups that allow families who have premature children to meet and support each other once they
have left the hospital.
On Tuesday, November 17th, Life’s Little Treasures Foundation is asking families to share photos and memories of their little treasures on social media with #76borntoosoon to help raise awareness of the impact of prematurity in Australia.
Sharing personal experiences and expert information about prematurity can help those families who need support now and in the future.