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World Prematurity Day 2013

The Rotunda Hospital launched its new facilities and resources in its Neonatology Unit financed by fundraising activities including a new echocardiograph machine, parents' waiting room facility and information booklet for parents to mark World Prematurity Day on November 17.  All of the facilities were mainly financed by fundraising activities.

"Every year, 15 million babies are born prematurely around the world.  In Ireland, the number is 4,500 per year or 1 every 116 minutes.   Many of the 4,500 babies will go on to lead healthy live.  Some of them will have long-term complications and, sadly, some of them are just too ill to survive.  The more support we can give them, and the more research we can carry out into premature babies, the greater we can improve their chances of survival", said Dr Adrienne Foran, consultant neonatologist at the Rotunda Hospital.

This year, The Rotunda is the busiest maternity hospital in the country with over 9,000 babies born there each year.   Over 1,000 of these are pre-term babies, (born between 23 and 36 weeks), many of them multiple births involving twins and triplets who are prone to early delivery.    

            "Our new echocardiograph machine has been a major boost to us here in the hospital.   We can perform greater diagnostics on our babies, monitor them through difficult periods, and it allows us to carry out more research into preterm medical problems.   We're extremely grateful to the charity groups such as Friends of the Rotunda, Irish Premature Babies and Rideout for Prems who fundraise so willingly for us.  They are critical for us to carry out our work, and to make life easier for pre-term parents who are under a lot of stress and anxiety about their children." said Dr Foran.

The Hospital hosted an event in the Pillar Room to showcase a documentary that was made about one special group of fundraisers for the Hospital - Rideout for Prems.   Produced by Moving Image Productions, the programme tells the story of a group of bikers who rideout around Ireland each year to raise funds for the neonatology units in the Rotunda Hospital and other maternity units around the country.

"Many of these premature babies face an incredibly difficult start when they come into the world. They can spend days, weeks and months in hospital with medical complications such as breathing problems, brain bleeds, heart trouble, bowels infections, cerebral palsy, hernias, or fluid accumulation on the brain.  They need all the support we can give them," said Sean Brennan, the founder of Rideout for Prems.

Dr Foran said that caring for premature babies has begun to move away from the intensive care units that were prevalent since the 1960s and that a more family-centred approach was now being adopted by all the leading maternity hospitals.   She said that's why the Hospital has pushed for getting additional facilities such as the waiting room for pre-term parents, more information about the neonatology unit, and how parents can get more involved in that programme of care.

"The benefits for everyone, including the baby, are substantial.  Things like the echocardiograph machine are relatively expensive (€30,000 approx), but often it's the little things than can make a big difference too.   For example, in our neonatology unit, we've been able to put up a number of privacy screens that allow mothers to breastfeed their babies or express milk whilst looking at their babies, which helps enormously.   Those screens only cost €100 each - so everything we get from fundraising, no matter how small, can go a long way to improving care for the babies," said Dr Foran.

World Prematurity Day is on the 17th of November each year.   Approximately 15 million babies are born prematurely each year accounting for more than one in 10 of all babies born worldwide.  It is estimated that the world’s 39 highest-income countries could cut around 58,000 premature births annually by implementing interventions to prevent preterm births, amounting to roughly €2.2 billion in economic cost savings.   World Prematurity Day aims to raise awareness for prematurity and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide because infants born preterm represent the largest child patient group.

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