Born too early too soon

Edna Uwineza, a 33-year-old mother of four, gave birth to a seven-month-old baby after a month in hospital.
One in 10 babies (15 million worldwide) are born premature One million of these babies die soon after birth. Net photo.
One in 10 babies (15 million worldwide) are born premature One million of these babies die soon after birth. Net photo.

Edna Uwineza, a 33-year-old mother of four, gave birth to a seven-month-old baby after a month in hospital.

“I was in Masaka hospital before being transferred to the Central University Teaching Hospital, Kigali, were I gave birth to a baby girl who weighed 1.6 kilogrammes,” Uwineza says.

“My baby was put in an incubator and was regularly weighed. With God’s grace, her weight increased to 2.3 kilogrammes. We were discharged and now she is two years old and growing.”

Dr Fidel Ngabo, the coordinator of Maternal and Child Health at the Ministry of Health, said 17 per cent of babies in Rwanda are born prematurely. He identified the causes of premature births as multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“Most premature births occur spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons,” Dr Ngabo said.

Fifteen million babies–one in 10 births–are born prematurely every year, a global health project suggests.

Dr Samuel Kagali, a gynecologist at Kacyiru Police Hospital, says premature babies experience medical complications depending on how early they are born.

Dr Kagali says premature birth that takes place three weeks or more before the baby is due and before its organs are fully mature.

“Late premature is when a baby is born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy and usually birth weight may range between two to 2.7 kilogrammes. Very premature babies are born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy and normally weigh between 1.5 to two kilogrammes and extremely premature babies are born at less than 25 weeks of pregnancy and they weigh less than one kilogramme,” he says.

The gynaecologist says premature births are mainly caused by urinary tract infections, malaria, hypertension, diabetes, cervical incompetence and accidents.

He also blamed the problem on poor nutrition and drug abuse during pregnancy. He advised pregnant women to complete the four prenatal visits, avoid lifting heavy objects while pregnant and eat well during pregnancy.

Dr Kagali also urged pregnant women to avoid stress, seek appropriate medical care and avoid infections.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute have established that about one in every 10 babies is born too soon. Speaking ahead of the World Prematurity Day, marked yesterday, the Robinson Institute’s preterm research priority leader, Philippa Middleton, said pre-term birth is a major problem throughout the world.

“There is still inadequate knowledge about the causes of pre-term birth and what can be done to prevent it,” Middleton said, adding that babies born prematurely are prone to educational and societal impacts in later life.

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