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India tops in preterm baby boom

Recent articles featured in Pharmabiz,  DNA and the Times have highlighted the dismal survival rates of premature babies in India.  They talk about the difference in facilities and services provided by a public and a private hospital in India and also point out that there is extreme disparity in the availability of health-care infrastructure between rural and urban areas. According to an article in the DNA, only 30% of premature babies born in public hospitals survive after proper health care while 80% survive in private hospitals.

This is one of the alarming facts about preterm babies in the action report by Indian Foundation of Premature Babies (IFPB).The report, “Delivered too soon”, has studied the issue of preterm births in India and sought contribution from over 200 neonatologists across India. A cumulative study of four hospitals from private and public sectors was conducted over five years to understand the rate of premature births and eventual survival chances of babies.

IFPB is a group of doctors and neonatologists in India, that delves deeper into the India-specific causes, care, consequences and controversies surrounding preterm births. It shows the realities of this condition in India and brings attention to needed efforts to change the situation.

Babies weighing less than 1.5kg during birth and having a gestation period of less than 28 weeks suffer from life-threatening complications of the lungs, brain and heart. “These kids experience breathlessness due to stunted lung growth, develop congenital heart issues and bleeding in the brain,” said Dr Nandkishore Kabra, member of IFPB. “Besides, NICU facilities in public set-ups do not match the global standards”. In Bangalore, there are 10 NICU centres, out of which, only one is in a public hospital.

The action report reiterates the fact that India retains the dubious distinction of topping the list of nations with most premature births around the world. Of the worldwide 1.5 crore babies born before 37 weeks of normal pregnancy period, 23.6% – the highest number for a single country – hail from India. “In India, 3.6 lakh babies are born prematurely, of which, as high as 85% die due to birth-related complications within a few days of their birth,” he said.


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