What is World Prematurity Day?
According to medical experts, prematurity is one of the contributors to infant mortality in the U.S. and around the world due to complications that can occur when an infant is born before its due date. November 17th is World Prematurity Day and was founded eleven years ago through the March of Dimes – an organization that helps to support individuals who have given birth prematurely. By partnering with hospitals and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU), the March of Dimes has helped families to provide care for their premature babies.
World Prematurity Day is an opportunity for the medical community to raise awareness about the health struggles associated with premature infants, as they fight to survive. Based on the data collected by the March of Dimes team, in 2020, 1 in 10 babies (10.1% of live births) were born preterm in the United States. From 2018-2020 the average percentage of Latin babies born prematurely was 9.8%.
I was born at 24 weeks, my mother was just a little over 5 months pregnant with twins and a first-time mother. When I was two days old, my twin sister succumbed to the complications common to premature babies and I was fighting for my life in an incubator that was now a replacement for my mother’s womb. I asked my mom to tell me how this experience had affected her at the time and she said, “Initially I was in shock and
couldn’t understand why my babies came so early. I did everything right – regular check-ups, prenatal vitamins, I was healthy, young and yet here I was 5 months pregnant and going into labor. This was the most terrifying experience of my life and the most heartbreaking.” When I asked about my care at the hospital and her thoughts about the March of Dimes my mom shared “Beth Israel Neonatal Intensive Care unit was incredible! The most compassionate and talented medical professionals I’ve ever encountered. And with the medical research and technologies provided by the March of Dimes, I personally feel they had a large hand in not only saving your life but so many other premature babies.”
My mom spent 4 months in the hospital, watching me grow and waiting for the day I would come home. During that time she had first-hand knowledge of all the medical procedures and technology being used to save so many premature babies like me. I asked her about her experience and she shared “there were so many machines from the incubator that was used to keep you warm and safe from germs, to the machines that helped you breathe and stay nourished, it was both amazing and frightening at the same time but the end result was it kept you and so many other babies like you alive.” My mom walked with the March of Dimes for many years, raising money and awareness to their cause and shared that “walking gave me purpose, and a way to give back to others who would, unfortunately, share the same birthing experience.” When asked to sum up her feelings about the entire experience my mom simply stated “your birth gave me the strength I never knew I had. So long as you kept fighting, I kept fighting right alongside you and it’s been that way ever since!”
Technology has evolved since I was born and because of the continued support from organizations like the March of Dimes, the odds are higher for babies born at twenty-four weeks. But let’s not forget the fight to end premature births is far from over and there is still much that can be done through advanced technology and further research. Thankfully, organizations like the March of Dimes still exist and encourage volunteers to join them in their continued fight to end this global problem.
What can you do to help?
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help to spread awareness on premature births, the March of Dimes is always looking for donations to help increase research for premature babies. You can also volunteer with one of the many campaigns that the March of Dimes supports such as Blanket Change, or Books For Babies. Another way that you can help this cause is by registering with the March for Babies, which is a charitable walking event that raises funds to support the March of Dimes’ mission to help mothers and their premature babies get the best care in the country.
I believe this day deserves more recognition than it gets because the premature survival rate has increased up to 60-70 percent over the years. With the development of new technology more babies born prematurely have a better chance at survival than they did twenty years ago. I will always be grateful to the March of Dimes organization and continue to help spread awareness about this cause in memory of my twin sister Taylor, and all of the children who’ve been born prematurely.