Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Preemie Awareness Day is November 17th -- Are You in The Know About Prematurity and RSV?

People laugh when I tell them I was pregnant for the better parts of 2010 and 2011 (will a 6 month break in between), as many of my old friends who I ran into only saw me pregnant.  Even though I have two beautiful girls I can hug and kiss goodnight, I am reminded each November 17th -- Preemie Awareness Day, of those parents who have to wait months to bring their little bundles of joy home, or have to deal with complications, including infections respiratory problems, due to their child's compromised immune systems.

A few of my close girlfriends had premature babies, born before 37 weeks. And, instead of celebrating the joyous occasion of welcoming a new baby, they had to endure up to 4-5 months in the hospital, watching their little ones fight for their lives, as they continued to develop and grow in an incubator.  If you have ever seen a preemie baby up close, it is really scary and sad, as they lay their helpless and look so tiny.  And, the beeping of the breathing machines and all the cables and tubes attached to these little bodies really pulls at your heartstrings.  

"Did you know that worldwide, 13 million babies are born early every year, including more than half a million in the United States? Despite these staggering numbers, many parents still aren’t aware of prematurity—the leading cause of neonatal death. In fact, a recent survey on prematurity awareness found that 3 in 10 mothers of preemies weren’t aware of the possibility of prematurity until they had their first child. And 75% of parents don’t know the definition of prematurity-- being born at or before 37 weeks gestation age. Given this low awareness, it is clear many parents don’t fully understand the increased risks that come with premature birth – and the specialized health care that preemies often require.

Prematurity disrupts a baby’s development in the womb, often stunting the growth of some of the body’s most critical organs. These babies are at an increased risk of serious medical complications and regularly face weeks or even months in the NICU. This often contributes to mothers feeling powerless, anxious and isolated."

During my two pregnancies, I had to have an induced labor, as I needed to have medically necessary scans to check for masses that my oncologists saw through scopes I had in the office.  Instead of waiting until the girls were ready to come on their own, I had to wait until 38 1/2 weeks to be induced, so that I could give my body a week to recover before going in for full body scans.  Not only was I scared about the early delivery, as I read and was educated from the doctors about the risks of premature birth and the chances that their immune systems would not fully be developed.  And, after seeing a few friends deal with visiting their babies daily and only being able to hold them for a short time, this weighed heavily on my mind.  

Luckily, besides the pyloric stenosis that they had and needed surgery for at 8 weeks old, they were born healthy and at full term.  What shocked me during both of pregnancies were the number of women eager to have an induction just to get the pregnancy over.  Some were first time parents who were eager to see their new babies, while some were trying to choose a specific date. I remember with Arabella, who was born on 11/10/11, that the maternity ward was full of women looking to be admitted, so that they could deliver on 11/11/11.  Did they not know of the consequences of pre-term babies?  I am hoping that will the observance of Prematurity Awareness Day on November 17th, that new and repeat parents will be better educated on the need to carry children to full-term.  You don't want to rush the delivery.  Just know that your little bundle of joy will be in your arms soon enough, when they are ready. :-)

RSV Premature baby

In addition to dealing with complications seen with premature babies, parents should also be informed about RSV. "Because their immune systems and lungs aren’t fully developed, preemies are more likely to develop infections and are more susceptible to respiratory problems. In fact, 79 percent of preemie moms have a baby who was hospitalized due to a severe respiratory infection. One virus in particular that parents of preemies should know about is respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. RSV is contracted by nearly all children by the age of two, often causing relatively minor symptoms that mimic the common cold. However, preemies are most at risk for developing much more serious symptoms, including a serious respiratory infection (severe RSV disease) from the virus, because their lungs are underdeveloped and they don’t have the antibodies needed to fight off infection."

Below are a few quick facts that all parents should know about RSV:

RSV Quick Facts:

· RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization, and severe RSV disease causes up to 10 times as many infant deaths each year as the flu.
· RSV is most prevalent during the winter months. The CDC has defined the “RSV season” as beginning in November and lasting through March for most parts of North America.
· In addition to prematurity, common risk factors include low birth weight, certain lung or heart
diseases, a family history of asthma and frequent contact with other children.

Prevention is Key

RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily through touching, sneezing and coughing. Since there’s no treatment for RSV, parents should take the following preventive steps to help protect their child:

· Wash hands, toys, bedding, and play areas frequently
· Ensure you, your family, and any visitors in your home wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
· Avoid large crowds and people who are or have been sick
· Never let anyone smoke near your baby
· Speak with your child’s doctor if he or she may be at high risk for RSV, as a preventive therapy may be available

Know the Symptoms:

Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if your child exhibits one or more of the following:

· Severe coughing, wheezing or rapid gasping breaths
· Blue color on the lips, mouth, or under the fingernails
· High fever and extreme fatigue

To learn more about RSV, visit and for more about the specialized health needs of preterm infants, visit Join the conversation online: #protectpreemies #rsv

Please spread the word about Prematurity Awareness Day on November 17th, as well as pass along the information you learned about RSV with new and expectant parents.  Like they always say, "It is better to be educated beforehand, than to have to read it about after the fact." I am so glad I knew about the risks about delivering early, and about RSV, while pregnant with my daughters. Now, I made sure friends and family who are expecting do, too.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


  1. I had two preemie babies. In both pregnancies, I was fine until labor just started unexpectedly. My daughter was born at 28 weeks and weighed 2 lbs. 5 oz. She spent 6 weeks in the hospital and after being home a week, had RSV. Another week was spent in the hospital. She will be 16 next week and you can't tell she was born that early. My son was born almost 2 years later; a preemie, as well, born at almost 32 weeks and weighing 3 lbs. 6 oz. He spent 5 weeks in the hospital He will be 14 next week and is a whopping 6' 2" tall. I truly feel thankful to the Lord when I look at them.
    Thank you for this article.