November is Prematurity Awareness Month, as designated by the March of Dimes in 2011. Their mission has been to raise awareness of premature birth rates and to educate and give voice to the struggles pre-term infants and their families endure.
March of Dimes research indicates more than 500,000 pre-term births occur in the U.S. alone.
As those in the neonatal health care industry know, premature babies are born needing in-depth care to survive and become healthy, and may often be left with disabilities or delays that can pose significant challenges. It is imperative that the message be shared not only regarding steps to prevent preterm birth, but to support premature infants and their families with resources for long-term health.
There are many ways to spread this important message:
Find your local March of Dimes chapter and get involved or donate. Many chapters have walks or other fundraisers to share the message and help families of premature babies. Premature infants often suffer long-term effects of their early birth:
– Intellectual disabilities
– Cerebral palsy
– Breathing and respiratory problems
– Visual problems including retinopathy of prematurity
– Hearing loss
– Feeding and digestive problems
Educate family and friends about the causes of premature birth and who is at risk:
– Having a previous premature birth
– Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
– An interval of less than six months between pregnancies
– Conceiving through in vitro fertilization
– Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
– Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
– Poor nutrition
– Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
– Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
– Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
– Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
– Multiple miscarriages or abortions
– Physical injury or trauma
– Unusual shape of the uterus
If you are a parent of a premature baby, share information to educate others (if you are comfortable doing so). Those who have never been to a neonatal intensive care unit may not fully understand the trials you and your child have gone through. Awareness will help them be more understanding and supportive.
If you are a clinician in the NICU, educate others about the struggles premature infants face and how your profession works to save those who are born too soon.
Coinciding with Prematurity Awareness Month, November 17th is World Prematurity Day, an opportunity to share on a global scale how more than 15 million infants are born too early each year. While great strides have been made in identifying prematurity risks, there is always more work to be done.
Let’s stand together to raise awareness!