The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidelines, admonishing healthcare providers and caregivers on how to improve and ensure the survival of infants, particularly, preterm babies who are vulnerable to all sorts of infections.
The guidelines released ahead of the annual World Prematurity Day, recommend that there should be no first length of time spent in an incubator before an infant gains skin-to-skin contact with a caregiver, sometimes known as “kangaroo mother care.”
The document describes the enormous health benefits inherent in ensuring that caregivers and their preterm kids remain close, without being separated after birth.
In a tweet on its official Twitter handle, the apex health agency stated that the guideline was released ahead of World Prematurity Day, which is 17 November, to improve survival and health outcomes for babies born early than 37 weeks of pregnancy or smaller than 2.5kg at birth.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, commenting on the importance of infant’s survival said, “Preterm babies can survive, thrive, and change the world – but each baby must be given that chance”.
He continued: “These guidelines show that improving outcomes for these tiny babies is not always about providing the most high-tech solutions, but rather ensuring access to essential healthcare that is centered on the needs of families.”
Premature birth is a critical public health issue as it accounts for an estimated 15 million births each year, or more than one in ten of all births worldwide. Additionally, about 20 million kids are born underweight.
The document further stated that prematurity is now the greatest cause of death for children under the age of 5, and this figure is increasing.
It stressed that majority of the preterm infants can be saved with practical, affordable measures like high-quality prenatal, postpartum, and maternal care, the avoidance and treatment of common infections, and kangaroo mother care, which involves prolonged skin-to-skin contact in a special sling or wrap with the primary caregiver, usually the mother, and exclusive breastfeeding.
Speaking in the same vein, a Medical Officer for Newborn Health at WHO, Dr Karen Edmond, also mentioned, “The first embrace with a parent is not only emotionally important but also absolutely critical for improving chances of survival and health outcomes for small and premature babies,”
“Through COVID-19 times, we know that many women were unnecessarily separated from their babies, which could be catastrophic for the health of babies born early or small. These new guidelines stress the need to provide care for families and preterm babies together as a unit, and ensure parents get the best possible support through what is often a uniquely stressful and anxious time.”