EXCLUSIVE: Newborn Care Week: Prematurity, infections are the leading causes of neonatal deaths, says expert

Updated on Nov 20, 2021 02:11 AM IST  |  86.6K
Newborn and infant deaths
Newborn Care Week: Prematurity, infections are the leading causes of neonatal deaths, says expert

Did you know that according to experts a baby dies every minute in India? Shocking enough? There is more. Globally 2.4 million children died in the first month of life in 2019. Why so many infant deaths, you ask? There are several reasons.

“The most common causes of early neonatal deaths are prematurity (35 percent), infections (33 percent), birth asphyxia (20 percent) and birth defects (9 percent). Birth asphyxia is a condition in which a baby does not receive enough oxygen before, during or directly after birth. As per the 2019 census, globally children face the highest risk of dying in their first month of life at an average rate of 17 deaths per 1,000 live births,” says Dr S V N S Sowjanya, MBBS, MD Pediatrics, DNB Neonatology, Consultant Neonatologist, Fernandez Foundation.

newborn sleeping

She adds that 75 percent of infant deaths occur within the first 28 days of life, and most of them occur within the first 7 days. Globally 2.4 million children died in the first month of life in 2019. There are approximately 7000 newborn deaths every day.

“As per the SRS 2014 survey, the early neonatal mortality rate in India is 20 per 1000 live births with an estimated number of 5.1 lakhs deaths. With the birth of 25 million children each year, India accounts for nearly one-fifth of the world’s annual childbirths. Every minute one of those babies dies,” Sowjanya tells you. A newborn or neonate is any infant less than 4 weeks old (28 days). The early neonatal period refers to the period before 7 days of age. The late neonatal period refers to the period from completion of 7 days up to 28 days of life.

These horrendous facts are a reflection of how neglected newborn care is worldwide and call for immediate action. Detecting early birth defects and maintaining hand hygiene is imperative to avoid newborn or infant deaths.

infant care

“A good antenatal care, nutrition with regular visits to the obstetrician and delivery at a perinatal centre with a paediatrician attending the delivery can prevent birth asphyxia. In the case of a previous premature baby, the risk for subsequent premature delivery is high. Such mothers need to be under constant observation of the obstetrician. Prevention of infections is an important step to reduce neonatal deaths. This can be achieved by practising strict hand hygiene before and after handling neonatal babies,” says Sowjanya.

She adds that we now have targeted scans during pregnancy that can identify the majority of the birth defects as early as 18 – 20 weeks so that interventions can be done wherever necessary. “The overall emphasis should be on maternal care and nutrition as the maternal environment has a direct impact on the thriving of a fetus,” explains Sowjanya.

pregnancy scans

It is important for new mothers to stay healthy and happy, especially in the early days of childbirth, in order for the baby to stay the same. “Pregnancy and childbirth both are very stressful for any mother, especially for new moms. Hence, trying to spend more time with the baby in the form of skin to skin contact immediately after birth, rooming-in with the baby, breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth help the mother to relax and also promote bonding. Mothers should avoid multiple advice from others as it will leave them confused,” advises Sowjanya.

Remember that motherhood is a journey that both the mother and baby embark upon together and learn to excel with time. “Give adequate time to adjust to this new erratic schedule and understand that things become easier with time. Focus on establishing exclusive breastfeeding and seek the opinion of a paediatrician or neonatologist at the earliest in case of any concerns,” she concludes.

Also Read: Mother’s Diary: Here is why you shouldn't feel embarrassed for pursuing your dreams after embracing motherhood


User Avatar