November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Since 2003, March of Dimes has been leading the way in raising awareness of the risks and impacts of premature birth through their Prematurity Campaign with the goal of reducing the premature birth rate in the United States.
March of Dimes research indicates that about 380,000 pre-term births occur in the U.S. alone each year – one of the worst preterm birth rates among high-resource nations in the world.
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:
1. 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.
2. Educate patients, family, and friends about the causes and risk factors for premature birth:
- 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
3. Continue to educate others about the struggles premature infants face and how your profession works to save those who are born too soon. Premature infants often suffer long-term effects of their early birth such as:
- Intellectual disabilities
- Cerebral palsy
- Breathing and respiratory problems
- Visual problems including retinopathy of prematurity
- Hearing loss
- Feeding and digestive problems
Many families, and even other healthcare professionals, are not aware of these risks, or of the advances being made in the neonatal care space to support our smallest patients.
Coinciding with Prematurity Awareness Month, November 17th is World Prematurity Day, an opportunity to share on a global scale details and education about how premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. 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!