Number 1 Cause of Death in Young Children Occurs at Birth

As parents, we sometimes focus so much on various diseases and dangerous items in our house that we fear can hurt our young children that we forget the number one cause of death in babies is one that happens long before they can even crawl. Premature birth is reportedly the leading cause of death among babies and young children. As we acknowledge World Prematurity Day, it is important that we make ourselves aware of the dangers associated with preterm births -- and the efforts to prevent them.


The statistics, according to a new study published in The Lancet, are astounding: each year, 1.09 million children under the age of 5 die as a result of health complications associated with premature births. There are two major reasons why this is the case, experts say. The first is that babies born before 37 weeks do not have fully formed organs and their immature lungs are not as open as they should be.

The second reason is that they are more susceptible to infections like pneumonia and sepsis. And, even if they receive care in the NICU, some preterm babies die after they've been released from the hospital.

Most of the cases of preterm mortality and complications we see are found in low-income countries where neonatal intensive care is not readily available. With that said, babies born in First World nations like ours are not shielded from the problem.

The good news is that this awareness is motivating experts to find ways to prevent preterm newborn deaths -- and one of those methods is by using "kangaroo mother care." Simply stated, this is when an unclothed newborn is held against a mother's bare chest, which not only keeps babies who are so vulnerable to cold temperatures warm, but also helps them ease into breastfeeding.

On this important day of awareness, we're wishing all the moms and dads of preterm babies a speedy recovery and the adequate healthcare that they deserve.

Was your baby born prematurely? What was your hospital experience like?


Image via Daniel Lobo/Flickr

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