November 17th, 2012 is World Prematurity Day

Did you know that babies born prior to 37 weeks are more prone to infections from viruses like the common cold, the flu, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)? While in utero, a baby’s lungs are the last organ to form. A premature birth means that his or her lungs aren’t as developed: airways are smaller and narrower, and lung volume is about half the lung volume than that of a full-term baby.

Advocating for premature babies, and bringing awareness to the risks associated with pre-term births, is very close to my heart. Both my boys were born prior to 37 weeks. Brandon, my first-born, was born at 36 weeks and 1 day, and had to stay in the hospital for three extra days after I was discharged. Thankfully, it was just for observation, but that didn’t change the fact that my new baby couldn’t go home with me. Leaving Brandon in the hospital was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing I’ve had to do in my life.

But that’s nothing compared to what my friend Karen went through. Her baby girl was born at 24 weeks. She weighed about a pound, and was so tiny that even the itty-bitty preemie diapers were big on her.

The hours, days and weeks following her birth were filled with tests and procedures and waiting. Lots of waiting. But thanks to her resilient spirit, lots of faith from her family and friends, and all the medical advancements available in our modern world, Kami went home three months later. During the following five months, she needed a monthly RSV shot to prevent her from getting the virus. After that, she needed occasional monitoring to check for any other problems related to being born so prematurely. A true miracle, she has had no complications from being born at 24 weeks. Today, just over two years later, she’s a thriving, rambunctious, beautiful little girl.

I know that her parents are forever in debt not only to Kami’s medical team, but to the research and awareness that has been given to prematurity. Without these, Kami’s future and chance at a normal life would not have been so bright.

In this age of the internet and access to information at the touch of a button, there is still an astounding lack of awareness, particularly among the Hispanic community:

• The current rate of preterm births in the U.S. Hispanic community is 11.66 percent. Since 2006, the preterm rate has declined 5 percent for Hispanic infants.
• Data indicate that infants from U.S. Hispanic communities are at increased risk to develop severe RSV disease; while the exact reason for the increased risk is unknown, the increased prematurity rate is likely a contributing factor.
• Two-thirds of U.S. Hispanic mothers have never heard of RSV, and one in five U.S. Hispanic moms only becomes aware of RSV once their child has contracted the virus.

There are many excellent resources available, like the RSV Protection site, that have all kinds of information for expectant mothers and their families to better understand and know the risks of RSV. It is so important for everyone, especially soon-to-be mothers, to be knowledgeable of the risks related to premature births.

World Prematurity Day is this coming Saturday, November 17th. Help spread the word about the the risks of premature birth and RSV, and support healthier babies.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with RSV Protection and Latina Blogger Connect. As always, all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.

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