World Prematurity Day is celebrated on 17th November every year. The day focuses on increasing awareness about premature death and its prevention. The importance of the day lies in its activities that raise awareness of pre-term birth and the concerns of their families. By present estimates, the number of pre-term babies all over the world is close to 15 million. In fact, statistics reveal that one in every 10 babies is born before time. The day was first celebrated in 2011, with health professionals, parent groups, families and hospitals coming together and organizing various activities on this day.
Pre term birth has been defined as a birth before completion of 37 weeks. Various studies support pre-term growth as the 2nd most important cause of newborn mortality across the world. Unfortunately, the struggle for pre–term births does not stop after successful survival of an early birth. These babies also face health risks, particularly in the respiratory tract, besides intellectual disabilities and increased risk of cerebral palsy. Despite these shocking discoveries the general population is largely unaware of the risks and causes of pre-term births. The importance of this day lies in generating awareness about pre term babies at an international level.
The most common causes of pre-term births include vaginal infections that progress upwards from the vagina and trigger unstoppable contractions. Stress, diet and smoking are also well known triggers for premature births. Multiple births, particularly due to fertility treatments and late first pregnancies, particularly in women more than 35 years old are also causes for concern. Unfortunately the parents of pre term babies are under a lot of duress. They are busy making rounds of hospitals and counting heartbeats while other families are enjoying baby milestones. The origin of the day was to help such families by providing information about the care for premature infants.
By 2013 more than 60 countries were celebrating this day by creating awareness about various facets of pre-mature delivery. These awareness activities are a boon to the affected families as they gain a better understanding about pre-term infants, their care as well as the problems that they may face in the coming years. These activities help prepare families for all eventualities and possible situations that may arise in case of premature births. Pre term babies are not only small but prone to developmental delays as well.
Family planning and increased empowerment of women is one of the means advocated towards prevention of premature births. Quality care of pre-term births would go a long way towards saving their lives and activities that provide effective solutions should be encouraged. Interesting ideas on how to celebrate the day include funding studies that help provide better care for premature infants, prevent pre-term births and help prevent illness or death in the first year of birth. Many of these studies have led to successful interventions that help prevent pre-term deliveries and all efforts in this direction are to be appreciated.