Steps for a good time while pregnant

2016-11-22 06:00
Anthena Fortune recently gave birth to twin boys and nurses them using the kangaroo mother care method in the ward at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital.  PHOTO: Samantha Lee

Anthena Fortune recently gave birth to twin boys and nurses them using the kangaroo mother care method in the ward at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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Local health practitioners have put a spotlight on premature babies following World Prematurity Day observed last week.

Mitchell’s Plain paediatrician Doctor Graeme Spittal says several measures can be implemented to reduce the chances of babies being born early.

These measures also form part of the City of Cape Town’s First 1000 Days project that promotes the health and wellness of mothers and babies.

Premature birth happens when babies are born alive before 37 weeks.

There are three further subcategories of preterm birth, based on the baby’s age. A baby born at less than 28 weeks is considered extremely premature, between 28 and 32 weeks it is very premature and 32 to 37 weeks a baby is moderate to late premature.

Premature births can occur for a variety of reasons.

Spittal says a three-pronged approach can be taken to decrease the risk of a baby being born too early.

“The big thing that will help prevent premature births is to have a planned pregnancy, where you stop contraception on time and are healthy before and during your pregnancy. Access health facilities when you experience any complications,” says Spittal.

He says the health of the mother, both mental and physical, should not be neglected, although it happens on many occasions.

Pregnant women are urged to stop smoking, doing drugs and drinking alcohol, to have themselves tested for STDs and to focus on good nutrition and taking prescribed vitamins.

Some of the complications to look out for include vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal pain, rupturing of the membranes and reduced movements of the baby in the womb.

Spittal says another important part of preventing premature birth is booking your pregnancy early.

“Expectant mothers should visit the clinics to register their pregnancies and access health services. Prevention is basically booking early and going for regular checkups,” says Spittal.

But should your baby be born early, Spittal encourages exclusive breastfeeding and regular kangaroo mother care, or holding a baby skin-to-skin, for at least the first six months of the child’s life.

“Babies who are born prematurely are at risk of low body temperature and sugar levels dropping. One of the main ways to remedy that is to put the baby on the chest skin to skin,” says Spittal.

It helps for the bond between parent and child, breastmilk production, relaxing the baby and releases endorphins that make the mother happy.

Spittal says fathers and siblings can also do this and adds it can be done for longer than six months.

To book your pregnancy, pregnant women should visit a basic antinatal clinic (BANC) – found at many of the municipal clinics and community health centres.

“Lots of people don’t want to go because they feel these clinics are not getting the job done, but there is a lot of outreach from the hospital obstetric team to help improve this service,” says Spittal.

It is advised to book your pregnancy before 20 weeks. The regular check-ups will then be handled by the clinic.

Booking early also allows risk assessment and screenings that will help to give pregant women and their babies adequate care during the pregnancy.

It is advised to do so as soon as you find out you are pregnant.

“We know the services are busy and we know you sometimes have to wait, and as a department we apologise for this, but it is important that you book and attend clinics regularly for the wellbeing of your baby. We are trying our best to assist in this,” says Spittal.

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