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DHA’s smart clinic discusses care for neonates, ahead of World Prematurity Day

The prevalence of preterm births at DHA maternity hospitals is roughly 15 to 20 per cent of all deliveries.

The Dubai Health Authority held today a smart clinic to discuss care for neonates ahead of World Prematurity Day which is observed on 17 November each year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide.

Information was disseminated through DHA’s Twitter account (DHA_Dubai) Instagram Page and through periscope.

The prevalence of preterm births at DHA maternity hospitals is roughly 15 to 20 per cent of all deliveries. Last year, 7000 babies were born at Latifa Hospital and 4000 babies were born in Dubai Hospital.

Dr Khaled El Atawi, consultant neonatologist at Latifa Hospital, said: “Preterm babies are those born before 37 weeks and normally weigh less than 2.5 kgs. Premature babies may have more health problems than babies born later. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some premature babies have to spend time in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). However, thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before and they go on to lead healthy lives. We have seen phenomenal improvements in the condition of babies as less as 25 weeks due to advancements in technology and medicine.”

El Atawi said some of the reasons for preterm delivery include having a previous premature birth; pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples, an interval of less than six months between pregnancies, conceiving through in vitro fertilization, problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta, some infections- particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract, some chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, being underweight or overweight before pregnancy etc.”

Dr Moustafa Ahmed Moustafa Hassan, pediatric neonatologist at Dubai Hospital said that at the hospital, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides round-the-clock care for preterm babies. “Neonates are placed in an incubator and if the baby’s condition allows, healthcare professionals teach the mother and father kangaroo-care so that the baby gets skin-to-skin contact with his parents. Baby’s vital signs are closely monitored, a feeding tube may be used to provide breast milk in preterm babies and when the baby can suckle, breast-feeding is introduced. Doctors will closely monitor fluid levels, baby may be placed under bilirubin lights if the baby has infant jaundice.”

Constant care and monitoring is provided to ensure baby can be discharged and go home as soon as possible.

Family centered neonatal care:

El Atawi said that during the hospital stay parents can and should help healthcare professionals by checking with them in what way they can care for their baby while the baby is in the NICU.

Latifa is the only hospital in Dubai to provide a dedicated enclosed space in the form of a cozy chair next to the baby’s incubator and a family room where the neonate and the mother stay for a few days prior to discharge from hospital.

El Atawi, said: “DHA hospitals encourage family involvement to promote baby’s development while the baby is in the NICU. We encourage parents to speak to their baby as the baby recognizes the voice of his parents. Once the baby is stable enough, we encourage kangaroo care, which is skin-to-skin contact with the baby and his parents. This reassuring and loving touch is known to benefit babies. Once the baby is 1.6 kgs and 32 weeks and is able to suckle, we encourage breastfeeding and our breast feeding support team is always available to guide mothers.”

Few days prior to discharge, the mother and baby are transferred to a dedicated family room. “During these days the mother spends 24 hours with her baby and practices the bathing and feeding and routine care for her child. We also educate her on signs and symptoms to look out for, which require her to bring her baby back to the hospital. She is taught breastfeeding techniques, is provided with details of the next follow-up visits and vaccination schedule,” said El Atawi.

DHA hospitals also have a dedicated neonatal nutrition clinic that advises mothers of neonates on their nutritional needs until they reach 6 months of age.

Masooma Hussein Al Jassmi, head of nutrition section at Jalila Hospital said that parents should ask the medical team about your baby’s need for supplementation. “Preterm babies lose out on getting sufficient proteins, fats and calcium due to early delivery. This needs to be replaced and can be done in the form of breast milk fortifiers or preterm infant formula which contain a higher amount of protein needed for neonates.”

Al Jassmi added that parents of preterm babies need to bear in mind that premature babies usually eat less and may need to be fed more often than full-term babies. “Mothers of pre-term babies should closely monitor the amount of milk a child consumes within 24 hours and that they will need to feed more often.”

Once the baby is at home, Dr Maryam Al Sada, pediatrician at Dubai Hospital, said that preterm babies need to be protected from developing infections. “Try to minimize your baby’s exposure to crowded places and make sure everyone who comes into contact with your child washes his or her hands first. Ask people who are ill to postpone their visit until after your baby’s first few weeks at home. Also ensure you provide your child with timely vaccinations as per your child’s schedule.”

To mark World Prematurity Day, both Dubai and Latifa Hospital will hold awareness campaigns tomorrow and will address queries of parents.