When a baby is born prematurely, a multidisciplinary team is in charge of its diagnosis and treatment, and of giving it assistance to feed, breathe and maintain body temperature. But not all support comes from medicine. In this space, the family has a leading role: the frequent skin-to-skin contact of the parents with the newborn facilitates their path until they reach the evolution that they did not finish developing in the maternal womb. Skin-to-skin contact with the family, a valuable intervention for the evolution of premature babies
Of every 10 births, one occurs before the 37th week of gestation. These children require specialized medical care. A new paradigm encourages parents to be an active part in this process and maintain a close and constant bond with their child.
“There is a paradigm shift in the care of a premature newborn that aims to guarantee the participation of families. And to do so, the Neonatology Services must involve parents from the very beginning”highlights the doctor Ana PedrazaHead of Neonatology at Clinic and Maternity Suizo Argentina. This modality is promoted by Unicef through the so-called “safe and family-centered maternity hospitals”, in which there are no income or permanence restrictions for parents.
Promoting this constant bond is the axis of the “Week of Prematurity”which begins this Monday, November 14, seeks to raise awareness about the rights of children who are born prematurely. “This year the motto is ‘the embrace of the family, a powerful therapy’ and emphasizes the importance of skin to skin contact in neonatal intensive care units, frequently and, if possible, from the first hour of life”adds the doctor Patricia Subotovsky.
Why is it sought to promote close contact between parents and their children? “It is a simple and safe intervention with numerous benefits. In infants, it improves temperature control, physiological stability, and weight gain; and in mothers, it increases milk production and decreases the stress generated by the neon therapy environmentatal”, adds the expert, who is the coordinator of the Neonatology Service of the Swiss Argentine.
For this, the specialists emphasize, it is important to break with the old idea that the “neo” is a space that parents enter only a few times a day. On the contrary: it is essential their free access and participation in careso that they are part of the process. At the same time, this generates another benefit: families are prepared from the beginning to take care of the growth and development of that newborn, protecting their quality of life.
“Neonatal intensive care units should be friendly, with physical spaces that allow the integration of parents and families. It is important that they are included in decision-making, keeping them informed about the evolution of their child with clear and adequate explanations to the difficult situation they are going through. Parents are not visitors but part of the team that assists babies and is vital in the evolution during and after hospitalization”, points subotovsky.
One in 12 births is premature
The latest data recorded in Argentina (2020) show that every year almost 45 thousand babies before completing 37 weeks of gestation, which is why they are considered premature according to the parameter established by the WHO. Globally, they account for one in 10 births. This figure shows a great disparity since, according to each country, it oscillates in a wide gap: between 5% and 18% of live births.
“Although in recent years there has been a decrease in the birth rate in Argentina, the downward trend is more significant in the total number of live births than in that of RNPT (preterm newborns), which practically I know keep the same percentages”, analyzes the doctor Ana Pedraza.
“Most babies born prematurely require neonatal hospitalization with human teams and specialized services. attention must be personalized and appropriate at weeks of gestation, birth weight and clinical condition. The lower the gestational age or birth weight, the higher the risk of life, disease and complicationssays Dr. Jorge Lezcanocoordinator of the Neonatology Service of Sanatorio de los Arcos
“Medical and technological advances, the training of medical and nursing personnel, and the participation of the family offer premature babies great possibilities of survive and enjoy a good quality of life”, he adds Pedraza.
Risk factors and prevention guidelines
There are certain risk situations that can increase the chances of having a premature birth. Among them, the most important are:
- Having had a previous preterm birth or labor.
- Being pregnant with twins.
- Having long-term health problems, such as heart disease or kidney disease.
- Smoking or using illegal drugs, such as cocaine.
- Pregnancy complications such as infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, placenta problems, or a short period of time between one pregnancy and another.
As for prevention, the main thing is the adequate control before and during pregnancy. “Early and periodic prenatal consultations allow the identification of risk factors and comprehensive care of the health of the pregnant person. They also constitute instances of comprehensive counseling and accompaniment in which alarm guidelines can be provided for symptoms of Threat of Premature Labor”, he maintains Pedraza.
The decalogue of rights of the premature newborn
The dr. Mariana Sorgetti, coordinator of the Neonatology Service of the Suizo Argentina Clinic and Maternity Hospital highlights that this Prematurity Week is aimed at “mobilize health teams, families and the community and identify the key interventions and strategic changes necessary to guarantee and protect compliance with the decalogue of premature infants”.
As every year, the importance of complying with and respecting these 10 essential rights, which were published in 2013 by Unicef, is reinforced. Here is the complete decalogue:
- Prematurity can be prevented in many cases, through pregnancy control to which all women are entitled.
- Premature newborns have the right to be born and to be cared for in appropriate places.
- The premature newborn has the right to receive adequate attention to their needs, considering their weeks of gestation, their birth weight and their individual characteristics. Each step in your treatment must be taken with a vision of the future.
- Newborns born preterm have the right to receive high-quality nursing care, aimed at protecting their development and centered on the family.
- Babies born prematurely have the right to be fed with breast milk.
- All premature babies have the right to the prevention of blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity.
- A child who was born prematurely at high risk must have access, after neonatal discharge, to special follow-up programs.
- The family of a premature newborn has the full right to information and participation in decision-making about their health throughout their neonatal and pediatric care.
- The premature newborn has the right to be accompanied by his family at all times.
- People born prematurely have the same right to social integration as those born at term.
As the second of these rights indicates, the birth of a child who arrives before term must be carried out in suitable places. “It is essential that he be cared for in institutions that have trained personnel and availability of diagnostic and treatment resources for the care of premature newborns. And in the event that a medical situation indicating a threat of premature birth is identified, the pregnant woman should be referred to a maternity of complexity according to their gestational age at birth”, concludes Pedraza.
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