A Health Alert for Parents: Information on how to protect your baby during Prematurity Awareness Month

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Even though there are more than half a million babies born prematurely every year in the U.S., many parents are not aware of the risks prematurity brings. Moreover, three out of ten mothers with preemies were not aware of the possibility of preterm birth, the leading cause of neonatal death, until they gave birth prematurely. It’s time to raise awareness and educate all parents.

Welcoming a new baby into the world is full of excitement, joy, and many new experiences. Fortunately, most parents are able to bring their healthy newborn babies home from the hospital soon after birth, but parents of premature babies may not be so lucky, as preterm birth can come with complications, often requiring special medical attention.

Nearly half a million babies in the U.S. are born prematurely each year, and although the U.S. has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the world, a recent survey found that 75 percent of parents don’t know the definition of prematurity (birth at or before 37 weeks gestation). As prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, preemies often have specialized health needs, and are susceptible to a variety of illnesses, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV. As Prematurity Awareness Month gets underway, here is what all parents, especially parents of premature infants, need to know:

•    Preemies have underdeveloped lungs and fewer antibodies, causing them to be at heightened risk for developing severe cases of infections.
•    RSV is a common seasonal virus, typically occurring November through March, and causes mild to moderate cold-like symptoms in healthy, full-term babies, but can potentially develop into severe RSV disease in preemies.
•    RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization for babies during their first year of life, but surprisingly, one-third of mothers have never heard of the virus.
•    There is no treatment for RSV disease once it’s contracted, so it’s important for parents to know specific prevention methods to protect their children.

Dr. Gregory Sysyn (Neonatologist at the Pediatrix Medical Group, Atlanta, GA) and Crystal Diehl (prematurity advocate and mother of two preemies) will provide essential information about prematurity and RSV to help educate all parents.