Doctors are seeing more late pre-terms — babies born a few weeks ahead of full term. These babies appear normal, and doctors miss signs of poor development of lungs and other internal organs. Lack of care could result in developmental delays or permanent brain damage too, say experts
“Prematurity is more subjective and hence, it is difficult to maintain a database. We want to push for a strong collection of data,” said neonatologist Deepa Hariharan. She is among the specialists who have contributed to the Indian Foundation for Premature Babies’ action report ‘Delivered Too Soon’ on pre-term birth in India. According to her, around 20 per cent of women go for pre-term birth. “Nearly half the pre-term babies die for want of adequate care and lack of awareness among parents that they can be saved,” she added.
The causes for pre-term births include diabetes, hypertension, maternal stress and infection. Factors such as improper pregnancy planning, early or late pregnancies and assisted reproductive therapies also contribute, she said. “In IVF centres, 25 to 30 per cent of pregnancies end in premature deliveries,” Dr. Deepa said.
Health secretary J. Radhakrishnan, who released the report here on Sunday, observed as World Prematurity Day, said nearly 60 per cent of neo-natal mortality was in pre-term neo-nates and this called for more attention.
Delineating the various projects in this direction, he said the government had set up intensive care units and newborn care corners in block-level health centres too. The Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme had benefitted the mothers and also ensured the pregnancies were monitored. However, people should be taught healthy behaviour to prevent unpleasant surprises, he added.