Last Wednesday, November 17th, I turned 37 years old, where I will remain for the next 10 years. 😉 Last Wednesday was also Prematurity Awareness Day. Yes, you read that right. It was Prematurity Awareness Day. Unfortunately, one day is not enough to raise awareness about this very important topic. Actually, not even a month, but here’s why it can barely even get a day.
Sadly, over half a million babies will be born prematurely every year in the United States alone and 40% will be for unknown reasons. This will affect a premature baby’s development (sleep-wise and otherwise) and, often, her health. Sometimes it’s even fatal. 🙁
You would think that with that many babies born prematurely, we would have heard a lot more about prematurity awareness this month. But, we didn’t. I finally received a link to a website on Facebook, because a few of my “Facebook friends” have had premature babies.
So, why can’t Prematurity Awareness even get a day?
First, take a look at a list of “special months”: List of Special Months. I mean, really? January is Clean Up Your Computer Month and National Hot Tea Month? Huh?
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone if you are passionate about some of these special months, but it seems like all of these different “special months” dilute efforts that can be made on topics such as Prematurity Awareness, which will save lives.
Second, although 500,000 babies being born prematurely is a lot of babies, it’s “only” 12.5% of babies (there are over 4 million born per year in the U.S.), so not as many parents are directly affected by it (which is good), which makes education on the subject harder and it’s harder to make people listen. When it comes to other causes like Breast Cancer Awareness, many people have been touched one way or another by it: a grandmother, mother, wife, aunt, sister (like mine who died from it the year I got married), daughter, friend, or co-worker, to name a few.
As my friend said, being in the NICU is not for the faint of heart and losing a baby must be one of the hardest things a person can go through. Yes, losing my sister was hard, but a baby that you carried for months in your womb, whom you thought you’d watch grow older and give you grandchildren one day? I can’t even fathom it. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, mother of preemies, and writer, says
“…I am really interested in promoting awareness because before I delivered three premature babies and after 3 months in the NICU brought only two boys home from the hospital I had no idea prematurity was as terrible as it really is. I mean I knew it a happened a lot, I delivered many premature babies myself, but I never really appreciated the magnitude of the problem. I never appreciated the devastation. For us, the NICU stay was like a marathon through hell, but just when we got home we realized that those first 26.2 miles were just the warm-up because surprise, we’re really signed up for an ultra-marathon in hell. Parting gifts include cerebral palsy and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.”
You can imagine that if it was hard for an OB/GYN, who saw a lot of premature babies born, to grasp the magnitude of the problem, that it needs a lot of education to the ill-informed. Even though I’ve never personally experienced the birth of a premature baby, and even though you may not have a premature baby, wouldn’t it be something if we could help another parent who did/does? Sometimes, even if it hasn’t touched our own lives, we still need to act, not for us, but for the babies, many of whom who will go on to have health problems from their premature birth. At a minimum, we can raise awareness and reduce the number of premature births. After all, if it did happen to you, wouldn’t you want to feel less alone?
Lastly, I know how hard it is to actually get your voice heard. Building this website has given me first-hand knowledge about how difficult it really can be to a) Get Google to find you (we are now over 80,000 visits per month! Yeah!), b) Get people to stay and read (average is 2 minutes), c) Get people to open e-mails (why the link to this article went in my newsletter titled “How Thanksgiving Will Affect Your Baby’s Sleep” and nothing to do with prematurity), and d) Get people to act (click on a link, forward to a friend, etc.). So, in order for Prematurity Awareness to get the attention it deserves, it will take marketing, educating, and people sharing/acting. I don’t know who “organizes” all of these special months, but without a force behind it, the news stories won’t cover it, there won’t be ribbons to pin on our shirts, or “races for the cure.” It will continue to be just another item on the list of special months.
How you can help:
- Learn the causes of premature births, so you can educate not only yourself, but your friends, families, coworkers, and anyone who will listen.
- Learn that you can reduce your risks by getting prenatal care, spreading out your births by 18 months (if your first was a preemie), and talk to your doctor about progesterone supplements.
- Share this on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail the link to others, so other people know it’s Prematurity Awareness
- Consider a donation to March of Dimes
If you are a parent of a preemie, here are a couple of resources: