Meenakshi Hospital Organises Preterm Babies Get-together

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Meenakshi Hospital, Thanjavur, a multispecialty tertiary care hospital, organised ‘Preterm Babies Get-together’ with the participation of about 50 parents along with their babies. The event provided an opportunity for the parents with preterm babies to meet, interact, and exchange their experiences of bringing up their babies. The hospital has also launched a support group of parents to help them cope up with the challenges in taking care of their babies and inspire them to provide care, right medical intervention, and timely follow-ups for their babies. 

The event was organised in commemoration of the World Prematurity Day, 2023, observed recently. Dr. Ravichandran, Medical Superintendent, Dr.R.Sakthivel, Consultant-Pediatrics and Neonatology Department, Dr. R. Reshma, Consultant Pediatrics, and Dr, Nirmala, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology department, Meenakshi Hospital, Thanjavur addressed the parents. Cake cutting and activities for parents were among the highlights of the event. 

In his address, Dr.Sakthivel, Consultant, Pediatrics and Neonatology Department said that a typical pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Babies which are born before 37weeks of pregnancy are called preterms. Globally, 1 in every 10 baby is born preterm. Every year, an estimated 13.4 million babies are born preterm while an even higher number - over 20 million babies - have a low birthweight (under 2.5 kg at birth). Preterm birth has become the most prevalent cause of infant death, accounting for more than one-fifth of all deaths in children under the age of five. The three leading causes of death for premature babies are respiratory failure, infection, and congenital defects. 

He added that the earlier a baby is born, the greater are its health risks. Premature infants are more likely to have poor lung maturity, facilitating the need for ventilator care soon after birth and immature gut system requiring nutritional support. They are also at increased risk of infections due to weakened immunity and risk of anemia and newborn jaundice, which is supported with blood transfusions and phototherapy. Preterm babies require regular followup to monitor and support their growth and neuro development. They also require vision and auditory assessment, cardiac and brain imaging. Over the long term, premature babies may have issues with learning, development, vision and hearing.

He also added, “However, with the right medical intervention, all these health issues and complications can be treated or averted. Preterm babies will likely need to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital until maturity. Mothers and babies should ideally stay together after birth to promote feeding and bonding. Kangaroo mother care which includes ongoing skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding can immensely benefit low birth weight and preterm babies. Equipment like ventilator or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a machine that helps in respiratory support, as well as medicine like surfactant to improve lung maturity, total parenteral nutrition, and the developmental support care by trained nurses can make a big difference to the well being of the preterm babies. Regular follow-up visits will help diagnose health issues early and provide early treatment.”  

Talking about the causes of preterm birth, Dr Sakthivel said that mothers with ongoing health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes, in vitro pregnancy, and those who have problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta, and are underweight or overweight before pregnancy are at risk of giving birth to a preterm baby. Other known risks include pregnancy before the age of 17 or after 35 and going through stressful life events during pregnancy. 

He said that the preventive measures to avoid preterm birth include: taking regular prenatal care, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing chronic conditions, avoiding stress, and knowing warning signs.

Meenakshi Hospital provides comprehensive care for preterm babies. It has round the clock neonatologist consultation, neonatal emergency care, Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,  Neonatal ventilators, Phototherapy and other live saving equipments. With its well trained nursing and other paramedical staff, it ensures 24X7 neonatal monitoring and meticulous care. In the last two years, the hospital has saved the lives of more than 25 very preterm to extreme preterm babies ( 26 to 32weeks ) in past 2 years.

World Prematurity Day is observed worldwide on 17th of November every year to raise awareness of prematurity-related fatalities, challenges, and affordable ways to prevent them. The theme for 2023 emphasises that skin-to-skin contact (Kangaroo care) benefits all infants, especially premature babies. Initiated right after birth, skin-to-skin contact contributes to the baby's awareness of touch and affection and plays a vital role in maintaining breastfeeding. 


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