According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year, an estimated 15mn babies (one in 10) are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising. The world health body says preterm birth occurs for a variety of reasons.
Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons. Common causes of preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified. There could also be a genetic influence.
This year’s theme, “Together for babies born too soon…caring for the future”, highlighted the significant impact of healthcare professionals, organisations and communities working together to improve the outcome for preterm babies and their families.
Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) across Hamad Medical Corporation recognised this day as premature babies are their core patient group. NICU staff from Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC) and Al Wakra Hospital organised events featuring staff donning purple shirts and masks as a symbol of the day which stands for sensitivity and exceptionality. In WWRC’s NICU alone, around 50% of a total of 2,540 admissions last year were babies born prematurely.
WWRC’s NICU staff observed the day with poster displays and video clips of mothers of premature babies sharing their babies’ journey through NICU. One of the mothers, Nilushika Jayangani Weerasekera, who was diagnosed with Covid-19, expressed her gratitude to WWRC’s NICU team for taking care of her preterm son and the staff of Hazm Mebaireek Hospital for their support throughout her hospital stay. “My son was due in November but was delivered prematurely in August as I had Covid-19 and severe pneumonia requiring intubation. So, my baby had to be born early in order to save him and prevent complications,” the mother recalled.
Weerasekera described the time away from her baby as ‘a difficult moment’ as she and her husband were unable to see him until after one month because both were sick with Covid-19.
“I felt excited to see him for the first time and thankful to the NICU staff at WWRC for looking after him very well and for welcoming me warmly during that first visit. I am also grateful for their support throughout his stay at the NICU. It’s obvious to me that the NICU staff understood what I had gone through by making me feel comfortable and loved. I am also thankful to the mum who volunteered to donate her breastmilk to my son when I was unable to breastfeed him. I can’t thank her enough for her selfless love and generosity,” she adds.
Dr Hilal al-Rifai, acting chief executive and medical director of WWRC said: “HMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care has made great progress in the management of premature babies and delivered the best possible outcomes which have put Qatar at the forefront of the world in achieving record top level survival.
Dr al-Rifai noted that the achievements of the NICU would not have been possible without the support from Qatar’s leadership and HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari. “The generosity and care for the humanity by Qatar has made this service for pre-term births in Qatar completely free of charge for all residents and citizens,” he added.
Dr Nawal Magzoub, paediatric consultant, Critical Care, WWRC’s NICU, pointed out that to ensure current and past moms as well as the families of preemies receive well-rounded support and encouragement every step of the way. A support group of preemies’ parents called Sanadk, led by a small multidisciplinary committee comprising physicians, psychologists, social workers and lactation consultants, has been inaugurated in Qatar. Members of the group meet regularly to offer support to new mums and share their experiences, she notes.