Giving birth more than six times in a mother’s life, too short pregnancy spacing period, over age pregnancy – when a woman becomes pregnant above 35 years old and maternal exhaustion – a condition consisting of dehydration and exhaustion during prolonged labour, are some of the key causes of the many premature (preterm) births in the Bunyoro region, according to Dr Charles Balungi, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital.
Premature (preterm) birth is when a baby is born too early before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.
During a one-to-one interview in his office at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital with Kazi-njema News reporter, Joseph Uzelle, the medic also attributed premature births to increased teenage pregnancies, expectant mothers’ failure to go for antenatal care services and infectious amniotic membrane that expectant mothers ignore.
Dr Balungi said Hoima Regional Referral Hospital registers a big number of premature births witnessed in about 105 and 210 births quarterly and annually respectively.
This figure translates into about 15% and 30% of the 2,100 and 8,400 deliveries in the respective periods and 700 deliveries monthly with the latter seeing few mothers deliver through the birth canal while the majority by caesarean section especially among teenage mothers and mothers who had subsequent births of more than six times.
The physician said that premature fetuses are exposed to death since they lack a lot in their life as they are not fully developed to sustain themselves independently.
“We receive about 15-30% of deliveries as a result of prematurity. The small gestation period results into respiratory syndromes, poor oxidation of glucose and hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) and hyperthermia (the condition of having a body temperature greatly above normal) which tend to increase the perinatal mortality rate at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital,” Dr Balungi said.
Perinatal mortality rate is the sum of the number of resident fetal deaths of 28 or more week gestation plus the number of resident newborns dying under seven days of age in a specified geographical area.
The obstetrician cum gynaecologist revealed that the big number of premature births faces a wide range of challenges at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital including alternating power supply, lack of well-equipped antenatal intensive care units, limited oxygen concentrators for oxygen supply, limited spaces to keep preterm babies, inadequate human resource as in paediatricians to take care and treat preterm babies and lack of enough premature baby warmers.
Dr Balungi warned and cautioned expectant mothers against keeping home and seeking assistance from traditional birth attendants or birth rituals before experiencing and during birth pangs.
He said that community education and sensitisation about the dangers of teenage and subsequent pregnancies are conducted besides advising expectant mothers to always utilise health facilities for antenatal services from trained professionals to lessen cases of prenatal deaths in the Bunyoro region.
The consultant said more provision of babies’ resuscitators, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and stocking oxygen plants or refurbishing the current one to enable subsequent oxygen cylinders will help better preterm services.