“It was a terrifying reality but it’s a lesson in love, life and motherhood.”
Every mum wants to give birth to a full-term, healthy baby. Yet some babies are born much earlier than their due date – hence the term premature babies.
Globally, approximately 15 million babies are born too soon, or prematurely, across the world every year. That is 41, 095 babies each day, or 29 babies every single minute.
One million of these premature babies don’t survive, and those who do, often have lifelong health problems.
In Singapore too, premature birth is a terrifying reality for 1 out of 10 mums. In fact, according to a recent report premature births in Singapore are on the rise. Over the last decade, the national rate of preterm births has gone up from 7.2 per cent to 9.5 per cent.
This upward trend in preterm births is also reflected in individual hospitals. For instance, in the last ten years the incidence of preterm births at KKH has gone up from 11 per cent to 13.5 per cent.
However, despite its high level of occurrence, a large number of mums-to-be don’t fully understand what prematurity is, what are its causes and that they can actually help prevent it.
World Prematurity Day is marked on the 17th of November to raise awareness about premature births.
A number of organisations came together in 2011 to start the World Prematurity Day to raise awareness about preterm birth and to bring more attention and urgency to global initiatives to address it. Since then, the day is celebrated on November 17 every year.
In support of babies born too early, their mums and even mums-to-be, Abbott has initiated the DreamBig education series, which aims to spread awareness on prematurity and help turn small starts into big futures.
As part of the DreamBig education series, Abbott in conjunction with theAsianparent, conducted a survey on Prematurity Awareness amongst Singaporean mums.
The overall results indicated that there is little understanding of what prematurity is and what are its causes and possible preventions. In fact, according to the survey only 32% or less than one-third of Singaporean mums know the definition of prematurity.
Click on to view the findings of the survey.
When is a baby considered premature?
Any baby born at less than the full 37 completed weeks of pregnancy is considered to be preterm. However, some babies do come earlier than others, and the extent of the challenges they face depends on the number of completed weeks of gestation. The closer the birth is to 37 weeks of pregnancy, the fewer the complications. Below are the different classifications of premature baby.
- Extreme preterm babies are those born at less than 28 weeks of gestation
- Very preterm babies are those born between 28 to less than 32 weeks of gestation
- Moderate to Late preterm babies are those born between 32 to less than 37 weeks of gestation.
What are the causes of premature birth? Can premature births be prevented? Click on the next page to find out.
Why do preterm babies face health complications?
At the start of your third trimester, or at 28 weeks your baby’s organs are fully formed, but are not yet mature enough for independent living. The full development of your baby’s brain and other vital organs such as lungs, eyes, heart, immune system, intestinal system, and kidneys takes places in this final term of your pregnancy.
Additionally, it is only in the third trimester that there is a high placental transfer of important nutrients, all of which are particularly needed to support the new born through the first six months of life.
So babies born before the completion of the third trimester would have these crucial developments compromised.
A large number of premature babies overcome the early hurdles and grow up to be healthy children.
Causes and prevention of prematurity
Out of the 224 mums surveyed, nearly two-thirds of the mum (60%) are not aware of are the causes of prematurity and an overwhelming 80% of them did not know that they can actually prevent prematurity.
While not all causes of premature births can be explained, there are certain factors that place some women at a much higher risk of preterm labour – this could be because of their personal medical histories, complications developed during pregnancy or simply because of certain lifestyle choices.
Additionally mums-to-be can mitigate the chances of having a premature birth by firstly being aware of some of the possible causes and then making lifestyle choices and exercising caution.
Challenges of having a premature baby
According to the survey findings, majority parents-to-be associate the following three challenges with premature babies:
- Long term health complication
- Lagging behind in physical and mental development
- High healthcare bills
In addition to these, there are other challenges that parents of premature babies face. These include: How to breastfeed a premature baby? What are his nutritional requirements? How do you understand and measure the developmental milestones of a preterm baby?
While premature babies can face health complications in their early years, many of them grow up to be absolutely fine, healthy and happy children, especially the moderate to late preterm babies. As one of the mums surveyed shared, “My youngest daughter was born at 31 weeks weighing 1.9kg. Today at 24 months, she is a cheerful little cutie pie weighing 11kg.”
There is no doubt that parents of premature babies have a tough time. Another mum shares, “It was an emotional journey of ups and downs, not knowing what to expect and how to react.”
However, there are plenty of support and information available for parents of premature babies to ensure that they are able to provide the best care.
Parents of preterm babies in Singapore can reach out to the following organisations:
- NUH Neonatal Parental Support Group at NUH
- Light Weight Club Support Group at Singapore General Hospital
- The Early Bird Baby Club at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Nearly 1 in 10 babies in Singapore are born premature. Support prematurity awareness by sharing this with other mums and mums-to-be. Continue to follow Abbott’s DreamBig series, especially for parents of premature babies and pregnant mums-to-be.
Abbott is a global healthcare company devoted to improving life through the development of products and technologies that span the breadth of healthcare. With a portfolio of leading, science-based offerings in diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals and branded generic pharmaceuticals, Abbott serves people in more than 150 countries and employs approximately 73,000 people.
The material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice of a qualified healthcare professional.