It’s a tough road for premature babies

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From the day that a woman learns that she is pregnant, her overriding concern each day of her pregnancy is that she gives birth to a healthy child. But despite a mother’s best efforts, many babies are born premature and underweight. Preterm births can occur due to induction of labour or caesarean birth for medical or non-medical reasons and can also be precipitated by multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Many women suffering from domestic violence also end up giving birth to premature babies.

Premature babies are delicate and require extra care and nourishment to ensure their survival but now according to a landmark Australian study it appears that even after surviving birth, premature babies are plagued by health problems throughout their lives. Researchers claim that most adults who were born prematurely with low birth weights tended to be single and economically disadvantaged as adults and were beset with chronic health issues throughout their lives. Premature babies are highly vulnerable to infection at least till the age of 18 and suffer lifelong consequences of their premature birth. In fact, researchers claim that each week of a premature birth led to children being 12% more likely  to be hospitalized for infections.

This revelation is all the more poignant and ironical in light of the enormous efforts taken by mothers that their premature babies receive the utmost care and nourishment possible.  None of these mothers could ever have imagined and would be disheartened that after all their efforts, their babies would never be healthy adults.

The results of the study are all the more relevant to developing countries where more than 40 million infants born each year are preterm, underweight or small for their gestational age.  The study has revealed  that the consequences of being born even slightly premature or underweight  are  lifelong. Although  it was always common knowledge among the medical fraternity that extremely premature babies were at as greater risk of infection, but it was never known that  even premature babies born close to term and at near – normal weights suffered the consequences. The study has triggered a major paradigm shift in how the medical fraternity views premature births from now on.

Given that babies born prematurely are at a much higher risk from short-term and long-term health problems, the best way forward  is to look for alternative interventions which will assist expectant mothers to carry their babies to term.