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Preterm birth also known as prematurity is defined as when a baby is born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age: extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks), very preterm (28 to 32 weeks) and moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).

Babies born below 32 weeks gestation (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. These babies can be saved with feasible, cost-effective care, such as essential care during child birth, provision of antenatal steroid injections (given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labour and under set criteria to strengthen the babies’ lungs), kangaroo mother care and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.

The NEST bundle of equipment that is installed in the implementing sites within CIN address these problems affecting the preterm babies. For warmth management, the program provides radiant warmers and encourages use of plastic wraps for babies born below 32 weeks gestation. For breathing support, bubble continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) machines and oxygen concentrators are provided. During the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week, the NEST mentors conducted mentorship in all the sites on proper breastfeeding techniques.

World prematurity day is marked on 17th November every year. In keeping with the theme this year, “Zero separation, Act now. Keep parents and babies born too soon together”, the NEST program in partnership with the MoH organized a webinar on best kangaroo mother care practices. The webinar targeted all healthcare workers who take care of newborns.

The discharge of a preterm baby from the hospital isn’t a single event, but a process. That process is designed to ensure that the infant can survive and thrive outside the hospital, and it prepares parents to take care of the baby on their own. Mums of preterm babies and their families should be involved in the care of their babies as soon as possible.

This article is written by Dolphine R. Mochach and was first published in the November 2021 CIN bulletin, read the entire bulletin here

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