News / Africa

Saving Premies from Death or Disability

Three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma is carried by her mother Silvie Estain in the emergency room at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma is carried by her mother Silvie Estain in the emergency room at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated about 15-million babies are born prematurely each year. About one million of them die, while many others suffer life-long disabilities.  A major study says half the women at risk of pre-term deliveries are not receiving simple, low cost treatments that could help prevent death or disabilities in newborns.

De Capua report on pre-term delivery risk
De Capua report on pre-term delivery riski
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

The study of more than 300,000 births in 29 low and middle income countries appears in The Lancet.

The World Health Organization’s Dr. Joshua Vogel, who led the research, said, “It’s a very big problem and a global one. Our best estimates are that over one in ten births worldwide actually occur before 37-weeks. So occur pre-term before the baby is fully grown and that’s in the region of about 15-million births annually.”

Most of the pre-term births occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Why pre-term births occur, he said, is a complex question.

“Many conditions can actually cause it, for example, infections. But often we don’t know the reason. They just occur and we need to do the best we can to manage them.”

Besides the nearly one million deaths each year among pre-term babies, many of those who survive have serious health issues. These include cardiovascular problems, visual and hearing difficulties and learning disabilities.

“And of course we need to consider how this can have an impact on the family, not just the individual baby or child, but also the economic consequences as well,” he said.

Vogel -- who‘s with the WHO’s Reproductive Health and Research Department – said there are simple, effective and inexpensive treatments that can prevent many of these problems.

“We have the antenatal corticosteroids that can help develop the lungs a bit quicker. And we also have another group of medications called tocolytics. And tocolytics can actually slow down or even in some cases temporarily stop a woman’s contractions. And this can buy us a little bit of time, not just in terms of helping to deliver, but more to give time for us to administer antenatal corticosteroids – for those drugs to work – or indeed to transfer the woman to a facility where she can get access to the best newborn care for the premature newborn when it is born,” he said.

But many women simply are not receiving these treatments.

Vogel said, “Of the women that are eligible for those drugs only just over half of them are actually receiving it. And in the case of the tocolytics medications, we found most women who are eligible were not receiving tocolytics medication or an antenatal corticosteroid. We also found that instead of tocolytics drugs women were often being treated with regimens that we know don’t really make much of a difference in this particular clinical situation.”

About a third of the women studied received ineffective treatments for pre-term risk, such as bed rest, hydration and magnesium sulfate. And many who did receive the tocolytics were not getting the best form known as calcium channel blockers. Instead, they were given the more risky beta-agonists, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, nausea and vomiting.

Vogel said the precise reasons why women are not getting proper treatments are unclear. Further study is needed on that. But he gives a few possibilities.

“It can be misunderstanding on the behalf of health staff or a lack of information. It can be a fear amongst women or the doctors or health care providers themselves. And of course it can be a lot of economic and financial barriers -- not just for hospitals and getting access to the drugs, but in the case of women and their families being able to afford it,” he said.

Vogel said to reduce the risk of pre-term births the medications should be given to eligible women between 26 and 34 weeks into pregnancy.  The WHO official agreed with those who say the drugs are not a panacea and that a comprehensive approach is needed to reduce deaths and disabilities associated with pre-term births.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid