Government Policy

Premature birth number one cause of newborn deaths: experts

By Md Morshadur Rahman

DHAKA, Jan 04, 2017 (BSS) - Health experts have identified preterm birth complications as the number one cause for the high death rate of newborns in Bangladesh.

The rate of preterm birth, which is associated with some risk factors including adolescence pregnancy, short spacing between pregnancies, hypertension and obesity, is very high in the country, they told BSS.

Dr Sayed Rubayet, director of Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) programme at Save the Children, said Bangladesh ranks seven among top ten countries of the World on account of premature birth.

"If a child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is considered as premature. In 2014, an estimated 4,38,800 children were born prematurely in Bangladesh," he added.

According to UNICEF estimates, this year a total of 23,600 babies might die due to complications from premature birth. "In 2014, we found that prematurity was number one cause of under-5 mortality. According to WHO, 14 percent of the children born in the country is premature, which means one premature birth out of seven.

The number of extreme premature, born before 28 weeks, has been estimated at 22,000 a year, Dr Rubayet said, adding these babies are considered as extreme pre-term and need extensive healthcare support.

The rate of prematurity can be lowered if we can bring changes in lifestyle, ensure infection prevention and early treatment of infection by paying attention to proper nutrition, preventing malnutrition and ensuring management in timing and spacing between pregnancy.

He said, "We do not know the actual reason behind the premature birth of a child. But we know that there are some risk factors responsible for premature birth.

These are adolescent pregnancy, short intervals between pregnancies, hypertension, obesity, sexually transmitted infectious disease and history of prematurity, tobacco use, pollution, especially caused by cooking inside the living area, Dr Rubayet added.

President of Bangladesh Paediatric Association Prof Dr Mohammod Shahidullah said there are three main reasons responsible for death of new born babies. Preterm birth complication is the number one reason behind high mortality rate among newborns, he added.

In a roundtable held recently, President of Obstetric and Gynecological Society of Bangladesh Prof Rowshan Ara Begum said, 'Stop Early Marriage' should be the only slogan. "Many mothers are coming with malnutrition and they do not have antenatal care. They are giving birth without proper spacing," she added.

The homes, where 63 percent delivery is performed, should be taken into account, Prof Rowshan Ara added.

At the roundtable, Chairman of Neonatology Department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Prof Abdul Mannan said, "Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a life-saving intervention for preterm babies that costs almost nothing. We can expand KMC intervention through motivation and behavioral change to prevent preterm deaths."

Officials of Save the Children said many case studies have showed that KMC is an effective life-saving intervention for premature babies. The continuous skin-to-skin contact between the newborn and the mother or other family members keeps the baby maintain warmth, facilitates breastfeeding and prevents infection. It also strengthens child-parent bonding.

According to a Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey (BDHS) in early 1990, neonatal mortality rate was 52 per 1000 live births, however, this number has been brought down to 28, an achievement which is helping to reach MDG goal in the area. It has to be brought down to below 12 per 1000 live births as per commitment of Sustainable Development Goal by 2030.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)