Dec 2021 Edition

Understanding preterm birth

Written by Kgaogelo Mamabolo

After a healthy and active two trimesters, the last thing Keneiloe Myoli (30) expected was to give birth prematurely. Keneiloe Myoli with her son, Zukhanye, who was born preterm.

“This was my first pregnancy, after trying to fall pregnant for close to two years. I underwent multiple tests to see if there was something preventing my pregnancy, and there was nothing wrong,” says Myoli, who resides in Bloemfontein, Free State.

She eventually fell pregnant and had a smooth pregnancy.

“It was only in my third trimester that I was diagnosed with partial placenta previa, meaning I had to stop most of my physical activity and be careful not to rupture my placenta.”

Placenta previa is when a baby’s placenta partially, or totally, covers the mother’s cervix, making natural birth near impossible. It can result in preterm birth, which is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Other reasons which may lead to preterm birth include Polyhydramnios,  where there is too much amniotic fluid around the baby during pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby during pregnancy. High blood pressure and diabetes are also causes of a high risk pregnancy, which may lead to early birth.  

“I gave birth at 36 weeks to a boy weighing 2.69kg. Unfortunately, Zukhanye, my son, also developed jaundice three days after he was born because he was a preterm baby.”

Myoli says her son was kept under phototherapy lights, clothed only in a nappy and with his eyes covered.

She says she was advised to feed Zukhanye every three hours so he could develop quicker.

“He had to be watched round the clock because he liked pulling off the glasses and they had to be kept on, as the lights could damage his eyes and blind him,” she says.

Dr Chantell Witten, of the University of the Free State, says improved antenatal care practices, maternal health and neonatal care help prevent the death rates of preterm babies.

“Women are encouraged to comply with the prescribed care recommendations during and after birth such as exclusive breastfeeding and giving babies skin-to-skin contact with the parent,” says Myoli.

Pregnant women should also attend antenatal visits at their nearest clinic, follow a healthy diet and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.

For more information on caring for a preterm baby, visit your nearest clinic.

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