Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Prematurity Day: Did you know?

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Day, I will be posting a series of blogs on this topic throughout the day. I ask that you join me in spreading awareness of the crisis of pregnancy and share information with the ones you love. If you feel called to do something, please consider donating to the March of Dimes' Fight for Preemies to aid in their life-saving research.
Before my own son was born ten weeks too soon, I knew very little about prematurity. I had no idea the long-lasting health and developmental repercussions that came with premature birth. Nor did I realize just how sick and fragile these precious babies start out. I certainly had no idea that so many lost the battle. That is why I want to share that information with you.
Did you know....
That 1 out of every 8 babies born in the United States will be premature (born before 37 weeks gestation)? That's 12.5% of all babies. 1,400 babies born premature every day. The only continent with a worst prematurity rate than North America is Africa.
That the prematurity rate has risen by 36% in the last 25 years? The only "good" news about that is the rise has been mostly attributable to an increase in late preterm births between 34 and 36 weeks gestational age.
That prematurity is the single greatest cause of perinatal death? Nearly 28% of babies who die in the first month, die from complications of prematurity.
That of the 13 Million Babies born this year worldwide, an astonishing 1 Million will die?
That only 17% of babies born at 23 weeks survive?
That only 39% of babies born at 24 weeks survive?
That only 50% of babies born at 25 weeks survive?
That most doctors will not intervene medically to help a baby born before 24 weeks?
That the youngest preemie to survive was born at 21 weeks and 5 days gestation and the smallest preemie to ever survive was only 9.9 ounces and 9.5 inches long at birth?
That ten percent of those born premature will develop a permanent disability such as chronic lung disease (my son Bennett), cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness?
That half of all babies born before 26 weeks gestational age are disabled?
That some of the most common complications a preemie born before 34 weeks gestational age include respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), bleeding in the brain, patent ductus ateriosus (PDA), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC - an infection of the bowel), and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP - the nerves in the eyes grow through the retinas and can lead to vision loss)?
That the risks of prematurity persist even after the baby is "ok" and into adulthood? Preemies are much more likely to be infertile, much more likely to suffer learning disabilities and more likely to die at an earlier age.
Yes, prematurity is a BIG problem indeed.
So, what can you do???
1. Support the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes has funded and supported research that has led to amazing tools to fight prematurity. Two of the most amazing accomplishments include the use of surfactant (an enzyme which is injected into the lungs of babies with respiratory distress to keep the lungs from collapsing, since many preemies cannot produce surfactant on their own) and the use of steroids to quickly advance the baby's lung development when a mother is at acute risk of delivering premature.
2. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of pre-term labor, pre-ecclampsia, preterm rupture of membranes, placental abruption - some of the main causes of premature birth.
3. Take folic acid even if you are not planning on getting pregnant, and definitely for a full year before you plan to try to conceive! A recent study showed a huge decrease in the rates of very premature births in women who took folic acid for a full year before they conceived!! How easy is that!?
Let's band together and get this information OUT in the hopes that TOGETHER we can reduce the risk of prematurity. No baby should have to suffer so much so early. Every baby deserves the best start possible!

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