Prematurity Awareness Month: Myths & Facts

As parents, you might be flooded with numerous information from health practitioners to your family. Not to mention the internet, which has its own pros and cons. When it comes to prematurity, it can be hard to separate myth from fact.
27 November 2018
Indonesia has the fifth largest number of premature births of any nation in the world, at 675,700 a year*. Premature birth complications have been the leading cause of death among infants for many decades.

As parents, you might be flooded with numerous information from health practitioners to your family. Not to mention the internet, which has its own pros and cons. When it comes to prematurity, it can be hard to separate myth from fact. Hence, we have put together a few myths about prematurity, followed by reliable facts to help put your mind at ease.
  1. Myth: Rupture of membranes is the sole reason of premature birth.

    According to the World Health Organization, roughly half of all preterm births are due to unknown causes. About 30% are due to preterm premature rupture of membranes (pPROM), and 15-20% are due to medical causes such as preeclampsia, placental abruption, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), or elective preterm deliveries. Other causal factors linked to preterm birth include prior medical conditions, genetics, environmental influences, infertility treatments, and improper prenatal care.
  1. Myth: A special baby formula is needed to catch up on their growth.

    With all best nutritious substances it has, breastmilk is still the most important nourishment for babies. If you give birth prematurely, your milk will be slightly different from full-term milk. This is because your baby’s needs are different from those of a full-term baby. Because premature babies need more proteins for growth than full-term babies, your colostrum will have more protein than the colostrum of full-term mothers. You’ll also have more of an enzyme called lysozyme. Lysozyme attacks certain bacteria and helps protect your baby from infections. Your breastmilk will also have more fat and less lactose, because premature babies find lactose hard to digest.
  1. Myth: All premature infants will have developmental delays.

    Extremely premature, low birth weight and sick babies have a higher risk of development problems – but even in these cases, many babies develop normally. In fact, most premature infants have normal development. That is why “screening” is a very essential step for doctors to detect the early complications, not just in preterm, but also in the full-term newborns. There are few screening tests that must be taken by newborns, such as respiratory and digestive system screening, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) screening, OAE or hearing screening, and lastly neonatal cranial ultrasound screening.
  1. Myth: You won’t be able to bond with your baby.

    If you can’t hold your baby or even touch them, how will you ever create a loving bond with them? You may not be taking your baby home right away, but there are a multitude of ways to bond with him/her. There are few ways to connect with your baby around the NICU routines: take part in skin-to-skin kangaroo care, read or sing to your baby, change diapers, take baby’s temperature, participate in feeding if possible, and bring items from home (such as items with your scent).
  1. Myth: Your journey ends when you leave the NICU.

    Bringing your NICU graduate home is an amazing milestone, but it doesn’t mean the journey is over. What friends and loved ones – and many NICU parents themselves – may not understand is that a premature birth can have lasting physical and emotional issues for both parents and kids. NICU families have up to a 70% chance of developing anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disease. While those statistics may sound grim, they only enhance the need for NICU awareness and support for NICU parents. Research has shown that the mental health of the parent is as important as the medical care of the baby.
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*World Health Organization
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