The Reality Behind Preterm Birth

BY NINA RODRIGUEZ

Despite what most people believe, according to the World Health Organization, preterm birth is a global issue. It is not just a concern for people living in countries located in Africa or Southeastern Asia. In fact, the United States is ranked in the top 10 countries with the greatest number of preterm births. However, the U.S. has the resources to care for these premature babies, whereas many mothers across the globe do not have access to basic medical care. Nonetheless, affordable healthcare has the potential to prevent 75% of the 1 million preterm baby deaths that occur every year.

The WHO defines preterm birth as “all births before 37 completed weeks of gestation or fewer than 259 days since the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.” Every year, around 15 million newborns are born premature. In their 2012 Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, the WHO classified the cause of preterm birth into either spontaneous preterm birth or provider-initiated preterm birth. The most significant risk factors for preterm birth are the mother’s lifestyle, the possibility of infection, the mother’s nutrition, and contraception.

These factors can be managed in order to prevent the death of premature babies worldwide. Although it may seem as though providing medical services for preterm babies is expensive, there are “cost-effective, practical solutions exist to help them survive and thrive. For example, a leading low-cost technique called ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’ involves swaddling a baby against an adult’s chest (usually the mother’s) for an extended period.” Other possible solutions include providing antibiotics to treat infections and better access to contraceptives.

Although it may seem as though providing medical services for preterm babies is expensive, there are “cost-effective, practical solutions exist to help them survive and thrive.

One organization that has advocated improving newborn survival in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Mali is Born on Time. This “five-year initiative brings together the expertise and resources of World Vision, Plan International Canada, Save the Children, the Government of Canada and Johnson & Johnson” to help mothers in these countries deliver full-term babies. Born on Time approaches this issue by working closely with the local governments of the communities they are sponsoring.

Born on Time aims at improving health service delivery. Their activities in order to arrive at this goal include training health care providers and community health workers to provide quality care during and after pregnancy. They will also help supply local health facilities with necessary supplies and strengthen the referral systems for high-risk deliveries. Another goal that this group has is to increase the uptake of health services in the communities of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Mali by empowering mothers and working with community leaders to raise awareness. Lastly, Born on Time hopes to strengthen data collection on this issue in order to increase knowledge on the issue to prevent future preterm births.

This global issue has various negative consequences on the entire world. So, improving the healthcare situation for mothers abroad strengthens the entire international community.

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