Every year on November 17, we celebrate World Prematurity Day. It’s a day set aside to reflect on the importance of specialized care for infants who are born early and their mothers, who often need extra support. Around the world, babies who are born early face much greater health risks than babies carried to term. But they’re no less loved and they’re just as important to care for. At Medical Teams, we join hands with organizations around the world to advocate and increase awareness for babies born prematurely. 

Read on to learn more about the premature babies we’ve cared for, and find out how you can help! 

Caring for premature infants

A beautiful, tender moment. A reason to celebrate — the moment a newborn enters the world. For a baby born premature, it can also be a terrifying moment.

Some of Medical Teams’ most important and rewarding work is meeting expectant mothers and walking with them through their journey of pregnancy, birth and newborn care. Every day, we work to provide loving and life-saving medical care to mothers and babies.

In many of the communities where we work, the health of mothers and babies is a major public health issue. Throughout rural areas in Uganda and Tanzania, premature babies are especially at risk due to the absence of equipment such as incubators and radiant warmers. According to the World Health Organization, prematurity is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of five.

Each gram counts

In Tanzania, health clinics are not always easy to access. One woman our staff met traveled a long distance to our clinic in a refugee camp because she knew she would get the medicines and care she needed when she delivered her baby.

Tanzania, Preemie Baby, World Prematurity Day
A mother holds her premature newborn in Tanzania.

And it’s a good thing she did.  Her newborn was born dangerously premature after only 23 weeks in the womb. At 1-month-old, her baby has grown to 2.6 pounds. The feeding tube (pictured above) helps ensure this baby girl receives enough nutrition to grow.

Once she reaches 4.4. pounds, both mom and baby will be discharged and return to the clinic every 3 days for weight monitoring.

Medical Teams’ nutrition officers and weight monitoring programs help ensure consistent weight gain for premature infants so they can grow up healthy and strong.

Double the Love

Imaculé Hamis lives in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania. As an expectant new mom, she found out she was pregnant with twins! She delivered with no complications, only four days early, but both newborns were very low birth weight.

“I want God to help them grow up well.”

Imaculé Hamis

The baby girls are both breastfeeding well. Imaculé is learning how to help her babies thrive with kangaroo mother care. She holds her twins close to her chest with skin-to-skin contact.

At referral hospitals that don’t have access to incubators, kangaroo care has been adopted as a common alternative. For premature and low-birth-weight infants, being held against a parent’s bare chest for a continuous length of time each day is a high-impact intervention.

This special hold reduces mortality rates for premature infants. It helps regulate a newborn’s temperature, breathing and heart rate. It also prevents hypothermia and severe infection, and promotes healthy weight gain. All from simple skin-to-skin contact.

Emotional Support

In addition to caring for the physical health of mothers and newborns, emotional health is an important factor. Mothers caring for premature babies and their families are often under an immense amount of stress.

In Uganda, Medical Teams staff often schedule visits for mothers with professional counselors after a preterm birth. In addition to one-on-one counseling, Mother Support Groups are available. These groups give moms a space to connect with each other, learn about community health, and rely on each other for help — to know they are not alone.

Safe Delivery Kits

All women need access to health care throughout their pregnancy, as well as during and after birth. Basic supplies can mean the difference between life and death for a mother and baby.

Medical Teams Safe Delivery Kits help women have the supplies and care they need to welcome their baby into the world. For a woman like Imaculé, a safe delivery is the first step to the health of her newborns. Kits include cotton wool, surgical gloves, cord clamps and other essential supplies. These supplies are essential to safely deliver babies and prevent infection.

Whether babies are born on time or early, Medical Teams is there to provide care that saves lives and helps babies thrive. But it’s You can help a mom have a safe delivery! Send a safe delivery kit today.

Portions of this post have been updated. Originally posted on December 4, 2020.