Prematurity. What does this word mean to you?
This word can mean life or death in about one in 10 births in the United States each year.
Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) is joining the rest of the world in observing Nov. 17 as World Prematurity Day.
"Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn deaths," said PMC Assistant Vice President of Patient Services Jeanette Sexton. "Most of these babies first weeks of life are spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These tiny humans fight against all odds to survive."
When a baby is born prematurely, or before 37 weeks gestation, they can have severe, long-term health problems. According to the March of Dimes, these health problems can affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.
"The more premature a baby is born, the more likely it is to have health problems," said PMC Children's Services Director Sandy Crum. "Some premature babies have to stay in the hospital's NICU, where sick newborns, with a variety of health issues, are cared for."
World Prematurity Day is a day dedicated to the families effected by premature birth, and throughout the month of November, the March of Dimes is drawing attention to the lifesaving research, treatments and community support made possible when working together to give every baby a fighting chance.
For parents who have the overwhelming experience of a NICU stay, HealthyChildren.org provides stress coping advice:
•Spend as much time with your baby as you or your baby's condition permit.
•Feed your baby as soon as your doctor says it's OK — the nurses will instruct you on either breast or bottle feeding techniques, whichever is appropriate for the baby's needs and your desires.
•You may be ready to return home before your baby is, which can be very difficult – remember, your baby is in good hands and you can visit your baby as often as you'd like.
•As soon as your doctor says it's ok, gently touch, hold and cradle your baby.
"I'm proud to be part of the wonderful NICU team at PMC," added Sexton. "We play a vital role in giving these special babies and their families the physical and emotional support needed during their NICU stay."
For more information on the services offered at PMC, call 606-218-3500 or visit us online at www.pikevillehospital.org.