Posts Tagged ‘ World Prematurity Day ’

World Prematurity Day in the NICU

Monday, November 19th, 2012

This post is written by Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents.

Watching a nurse change what must surely be the world’s smallest diaper will do more to motivate you to want to prevent prematurity than reading troubling statistics about early birth. Nevertheless, I’ll share some: Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm each year. 1.1 million die and many others are disabled. The rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has dropped over the last five years, but we still have the highest rate of any industrialized country.

I saw the diaper change–and incubator after incubator holding the tiniest babies, often attached to ventilators and monitors–during a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine. There, the March of Dimes has funded a unique research center where scientists from across a wide array of specialties are examining the causes of prematurity in hopes of finding cures. (I had the opportunity to make the visit because I am a March of Dimes trustee.)

Researchers are looking at the role microorganisms that live in our digestive tract, on our skin and elsewhere in the body play in prematurity; at the connections between genes and the environment; and at the way data can be used to examine why some hospitals have higher rates of early births and what doctors can do to bring down the numbers. Here at Parents we have “bagel Wednesdays” when our staff shares breakfast and conversation. But at the MOD’s Prematurity Research Center they have “preterm Wednesdays” where scientists share findings and ideas. Pretty humbling to think about the difference.

The scientists and the babies are heroic here, but so are the California moms-to-be and moms who are participating in the center’s research by giving weekly samples scraped from their gums and skin, as well as urine and blood samples, which scientists are using to help identify possible causes of prematurity. The lab’s giant freezers are crowded with 10,000 samples. The vials arrive in thermal lunch bags like the kind my kids use. These are bright red so as not to be confused with…lunch (photo to the right).

The goal of the Prematurity Research Center is essentially to put the NICU out of business, and the doctors who spend their days treating these babies say their top priority is prevention. Until that goal is achieved, we’ll keep World Prematurity Day on the calendar as a reminder so the tiniest babies won’t be forgotten.

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Born Too Soon

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Today is the first-ever World Prematurity Day, meant to raise awareness about the dangers of premature birth–and to honor the one million babies worldwide who die as a result of it.

Preterm birth is defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation and it’s the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who make it, though, may have lifelong challenges including breathing problems and learning disabilities. A new report out today shows that just under 12 percent of babies in the U.S. are born premature. The figure has been dropping for each of the past four years, but of course too many babies are still at risk.

What’s important to note is that even babies born a few weeks early–say, between 34 and 36 weeks–have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. For anyone who’s nearing the end of her pregnancy, you’re probably so ready to be done. You might even have a doctor who’s willing to induce or schedule an early c-section. The March of Dimes has worked tirelessly to spread this message: If you don’t have any medical reason to have an early delivery, aim for at least 39 weeks. Those last days and weeks are vital to the development of a healthy brain and lungs.

The March of Dimes is asking that everyone change their Facebook status today to share a message of support for prematurity prevention efforts–or your own experience with the issue. At the very least, you might want to Like their page and read the inspiring, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking posts and photos parents have left about their preemies.

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