Singapore sees rise in the rate of premature births

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Regardless of the availability of top notch medical care, Singapore has seen a rise in the rate of premature births. Read more on this topic right here...

According to a recent Channel NewsAsia report, when Audrey Lim first saw her twin babies after giving birth to them at just 25 weeks in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), she knew the next few months would be a challenge.

The 38-year-old property agent admitted: “They had so little flesh on them that they looked two-dimensional. There were also so many tubes and wires going through them. At that moment, I felt so much heartache and helplessness.”

Audrey’s tiny twin infants weighed just 700 grams each at birth, but thankfully, they survived.

More preterms births in Singapore

A preterm birth is defined by the World Health Organization as one that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

In Singapore, the incidence of preterm births has reportedly seen an increase from 7.2% to 9.5% in the last decade, says Professor Victor Samuel Rajadurai, head and senior consultant at KKH’s Department of Neonatology.

The Channel NewsAsia report quotes Professor Rajadurai as saying that the incidence of preterm births seen at KKH has also risen, from 11 per cent to 13.5 per cent in the past decade. This is despite low birth rates and better quality medical care in the same period.

What causes preterm labour?

While it is still not clear what exactly causes premature labour, factors such as older maternal age and the use of fertility treatments have been known to increase the likelihood.

To explain, assisted reproductive technology (which is performed now more than ever) increases a woman’s chance of multiple pregnancy, which in turn increases the risk of preterm labour.

According to experts, the  risk of preterm delivery for twin pregnancies increases three to five times compared with a singleton pregnancy. In a triplet pregnancy, the risk increases to seven to nine times.

Advances in medicine have also made it possible for women with certain existing illnesses that affect fertility to conceive and go through a pregnancy. Some of these conditions, such as some kidney and autoimmune diseases, are linked to a higher risk of preterm labour.

Preemies still go on to live relatively normal lives

According to the World Health Organisation, preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn deaths and the second-leading cause of deaths in children under the age of five. However, modern neonatal intensive care has made it possible for even the tiniest of babies to survive their prematurity.

Reportedly, about 90 per cent of premature babies treated at KKH’s Neonatal 
Intensive Care Unit (NICU) survive and the majority go on to live relatively normal lives.

But experts are quick to point out that even with modern NICU care, the survival for premature babies born at 25 weeks is between 70 to 75 per cent. About 30 per cent may have trouble with development.

Audrey’s twins are now like any other kids who love to play and jump about, but the first year was very tough for the parents, she told Channel NewsAsia.

“Looking back, we are really fortunate to have access to proper facilities and expertise to save our preemies,” she said.

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