The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth –prematurity- released in May 2012 puts the 2010 figures of preterm births in Ghana at 111,500 constituting 14.5 percent of live births recorded in Ghana. Out of this number, 7,800 died from preterm complications.
Globally, about 15 million babies were born too soon worldwide indicating that, 1 out of every 10 babies are born prematurely.
Preterm, according to the World Health Organisation, refers to babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. It can be classified into three groups: extremely preterm (<28 weeks), very preterm (28 to <32 weeks) and moderate to late preterm (32 to <37 weeks). Also referred to us premature birth, preterm birth is the number one cause of death during the first months of life, and babies who make it often face a lifetime of medical setbacks. For a country like Ghana with a very high burden of preterm births, the solutions that require urgent implementation are comprehensive family planning services, increased empowerment of women - especially adolescents - and improved quality of care before, during and afterpregnancy. A member of the MamaYe Coalition and Country Director of Evidence for Action (E4A), Prof. Richard Adanu, says Ghana should step up efforts to prevent preterm births by “providing quality emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities and adequately-trained skilled birth attendants, especially in remote areas”. Prof. Adanu said if babies are born prematurely however, very simple methods can save thousands of them if used effectively by both health workers and mothers. He was speaking ahead of the World Prematurity Day, which is marked worldwide on November 17. “Additionally, special attention must be paid to babies born preterm because they are vulnerable. If preterm babies are kept warm by their mothers and given proper nutrition, there will be an increased chance of survival for many of them,” he added. “Again, clean and hygienic umbilical cords improve the health of preterm babies. It is important to continuously monitor the birth of babies to make sure that babies who have difficulty breathing get immediate attention,” he noted. The Executive Director of the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), Vicky T. Okine, on her part, advised pregnant mothers to go for regular check-ups. “Preterm birth can be avoided if pregnant mothers visit the health professionals for regular screening.” She said“early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding has been proven to reduce newborn deaths. Every mother must make breastfeeding a priority for the sake of the baby.” Vicky T. Okine urged mothers to follow proper nutrition guidelines for their babies to increase their chances of survival. The World Prematurity Day is commemorated every year to promote the prevention of and care of preterm birth.