The rate of premature-born babies in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria recently rose to an alarming 45%.
Ma’am Kyari, a registered midwife at the College of Nursing and Midwifery in Maiduguri, told RNI reporter Nana Hadiza Mustapha that there were many causes for women to give birth preterm.
A patient with a history of premature birth was at risk; it could occur if a pregnant woman was underweight or overweight before getting pregnant; smoking and the use of non-prescribed drugs and harmful substances could lead to preterm birth; and health issues, such as diabetes, blood clotting disorders and infections were also factors.
Kyari said hunger, consuming pills without a doctor’s prescription and high blood pressure could also lead to mothers giving birth prematurely.
“It is common for women to take all sorts of pain relievers without a doctor’s approval and they might not realise the effect this could have on their pregnancy.”
The 12-year Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS) insurgency had not only killed, maimed and hurt millions of people, it had also contributed to an extreme economic crisis.
Borno State was one of the areas most affected by the JAS, more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, insurgency. Millions of people had to flee to other areas and, in the process, they lost their only means of making money. Extreme poverty was rife in the northeastern part of Nigeria. An unknown number of people had lost their jobs, leaving them with little or no income to feed their families.
Many families were totally indigent and had to rely on assistance from international aid agencies, the government and communities or relatives.
“Because of poverty many pregnant women lack the nutrition they need, which puts them at greater risk of having a premature baby,” Kyari said.
Women from low socioeconomic backgrounds were more vulnerable to pregnancy‐related complications.
There were not enough antenatal care facilities and, even if these were available, many women in Borno State could not afford to go for regular check-ups.
A study by the Journal of Intensive and Critical Care showed that education, income level, costs associated with seeking care, distance and time taken to travel were significantly associated with the use of maternity healthcare services. The costs of treatment, distance and time, income level, staff attitude and women’s autonomy were also critical in determining whether women used maternity care services.
Kyari said even though premature babies might seem to be as healthy as full-term babies, they still needed extra care.
She said in some areas of Borno State the lack of hospital beds added to the stress of pregnant women.
Nearly 85% of preterm babies were born between 32 and 37 weeks gestation. A full-term pregnancy usually lasts for about 280 days or 40 weeks.
The sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age, were:
- Extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
- Very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
- Moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks)
Doctors said induction or caesarean birth should not be planned before 39 completed weeks unless medically indicated.
The Every Preemie Scale said low birth weight – newborns weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth – due to prematurity and/or restricted growth in utero was a major contributor to newborn deaths.
It said preterm babies born between 32 and 37 weeks gestation usually did not need intensive care to survive. Solutions to improve the survival and health of vulnerable preterm and low birth weight babies included newborn care – drying, warming, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene and cord care – as well as basic care for feeding support, infections and breathing difficulties, which could mean the difference between life and death for small babies.
AISHA SD JAMAL