On World Prematurity Day, Dr. DeepaHariharan unveils her book “Parenting Preemies”
• Prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal deaths in India
• India accounts for a quarter of all neonatal deaths worldwide
• Dr.Hariharan’s book is a complete step-by-step guide for parents of premature babies
• The book explains prematurity, its causes and prevention, as well as effective strategies for parenting a premature baby
November 17th, 2018, Chennai:With 3.5 million babies being born premature annually, India tops the world in number of premature deliveries. India also accounts for more than 25% of all neonatal deaths worldwide and neonatal deaths account for 57% of under-5 child mortality in India. To raise awareness of prematurity, methods to prevent premature delivery, and to empower parents to provide the best care for their child, Dr. DeepaHariharan, a senior neonatologist launched the book Parenting Preemies on November 17, which marks World Prematurity Day.
Any baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy is premature. However, the extent and stage of prematurity matters. While all preterm babies require complex medical care, a baby born 3 to 4 months early is at far greater risk than a baby born 1 to 2 months early.The majority of babies born before 30 weeks of pregnancy require treatment with oxygen, surfactant and mechanical assistance to help them breathe. Mothers cannot hold or feed babies at this stage, and the uncertainty of survival can be traumatizing for the family. Even if neonatal mortality is avoided, premature babies face a host of potential complications and lifelong disabilities.
“Premature infants are at elevated risk for problems with learning, communication, emotional regulation, and social bonding. They can also suffer from long-term problems with hearing or vision, motor defects or learning disabilities. Growth-restricted premature infants are at greater risk of developing diabetes or heart problems later in life,” commented Dr.Hariharan. “Given the seriousness of prematurity, the first step is to raise awareness for its prevention. Parenting Premies addresses pre-pregnancy health, gestational diabetes, hypertension, maternal stress and improper diet, all of whichcan contribute to premature delivery. In addition, simple lifestyle measures and precautions such as eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, getting regular exercise and eating healthy can go a long way in avoiding prematurity.”
Navigating the emotional, medical and financial challenges of parenting a premature baby can be daunting.Parenting Premies is intended to provide a framework to help parents make critical decisions swiftly. Dr.Hariharan explained, “There are less than half-a-dozen such books written in the Indian context, despite the fact that prematurity is a public health concern. This book highlights that75% of premature babies can survive with widespread implementation of simple, cost-effective interventions such as breastfeeding, infection control and kangaroo mother care. And for the remaining 25% who require intensive care, I have tried to help parents understand the medical and financial implications so they can make the best choice in a timely manner for their child.”
Intensive care is most required in the first hour of a premature baby’s life – also called ‘the golden hour.’ Proper treatment provided in the hour dramatically improves infant survival and health, as well as the lifelong productivity of the individual. No degree of future treatment can compensate for inappropriate therapy in the golden hour. Dr.DeepaHariharan emphasises the role parents play in choosing the right care for their baby, “Many preemies require care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Parents should be mindful of the fact that an NICU not only requires state-of-the-art technology and equipment, but should also have a complete team that works in sync – neonatologist, specialist nurses, paramedics, consultants – in partnership with the parents!”
Dr.Deepa dedicated her book to the parents of premature babies, saying, “I often see parents who fight against all odds for the survival of their baby – and this book is a resource to empower them to make that miracle happen more often.”