• 11/16/2021

    Doha, 16 November 2021: Women’s Wellness and Research Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is today joining the international community in marking this year’s World Prematurity Day to raise awareness of preterm births and the high quality support that Hamad Medical Corporation’s NICU staff offer to them and their families.

    To mark the day today 17 November, the NICU staff are organizing an educational event featuring fun activities and presentation of gifts bags with handmade knit hats made by Doha Stitches to parents and their premature babies. The event is organized by a multidisciplinary team including physicians, nursing, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, pharmacists, case managers and social services. A video featuring journeys of some preterm babies from day one in the NICU until discharge is being played to inspire parents of newly admitted babies. Staff in each NICU unit are also participating in fun educational activities as well as receiving gifts.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, which is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. More than one in 10 babies are born prematurely worldwide. There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:

    • extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
    • very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
    • moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks)

    World Prematurity Day held this year under the theme: “Zero Separation. Act now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together,” helps to raise awareness of preterm births and the cost-effective interventions which can help to address the health issues that could arise due to early births. This includes essential care during childbirth and in the postnatal period for every mother and baby, including antenatal steroid injections (given to pregnant women at risk of preterm labor to strengthen the babies’ lungs), kangaroo mother care (when the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding), and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.

    “The NICU in WWRC is composed of 350 staff nurses, over 60 consultants and specialists neonatologist doctors and multidisciplinary supportive teams like respiratory therapists, each dedicated to care for our fragile babies making sure they are supported in the most caring, developmentally appropriate way while using the advance technology and resources available,” notes Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Acting Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of WWRC.

    He mentions that the NICU in WWRC is considered a Level 3 NICU and caters to premature babies delivered as early as 24-weeks’ gestation and weighing as small as 500gms. “Our staff are well trained and equipped to look after these babies right from birth until they are discharged from the NICU. Our staff also arrange outpatient follow-up visits to the required specialists after leaving the hospital,” Dr. Al Rifai states.

    According to Dr. Mai Al Qubaisi, Acting Director of NICU at WWRC, the causes of preterm birth are complex, and preterm birth occurs for a variety of reasons. “Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labor or cesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons. Common causes of preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified,” she explains.

    She notes that there is however much that can be done to help prevent preterm births – starting with ensuring a positive pregnancy experience for women and girls. “The WHO recommends key interventions to help women enjoy good health and well-being before and throughout pregnancy, such as counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, as well as on preventing tobacco and substance use. In addition, WHO recommends antenatal care that includes a minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy to identify and manage other risk factors, such as infections,” Dr. Al Qubaisi adds.