In Myanmar, an estimated 116,800 babies are born premature (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) each year. Among children under five, 21% of deaths are attributed to premature birth complications. A growing body of evidence suggests that kangaroo mother care (KMC), where mothers hold premature babies skin-to-skin to prevent hypothermia and support early breastfeeding, is one of several key ways to help premature babies survive and thrive.
On November 17, World Prematurity Day, 150 representatives from ethnic, community-based and international health organizations gathered at an event supported by Community Partners International held at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand to raise awareness and understanding of premature birth and the special care approaches required. Participants included medics, maternal and child health care trainees, and emergency obstetric and newborn care interns from Mae Tao Clinic, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare, the Back Pack Health Worker Team and the Burma Medical Association.
Dr. Cynthia Maung, founder of Mae Tao Clinic, gave the opening remarks, emphasizing that basic health care can save up to three quarters of babies dying of complications related to premature birth. She highlighted the importance of kangaroo mother care alongside improved nutrition and care before, during and after pregnancy, and birth spacing intervals of at least one year, as effective approaches to improve survival rates of premature babies.
Representatives from the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit and the Mae Tao Clinic then spoke about their premature baby care services. The Mae Tao Clinic introduced KMC techniques for premature baby care into their Reproductive Health Unit in 2017, and the staff reported on their progress. For premature babies born at the clinic with birth weights of around 1.5kg, those who received KMC gained weight faster and were discharged, on average, 1-2 weeks earlier that those that did not receive KMC. These results clearly demonstrate the positive impact of KMC on premature babies.
Mae Tao Clinic staff showed participants how to correctly secure a baby with skin-to-skin contact to the mother’s chest using strip of cloth known as a ‘KMC baby wrap’.
The event was supported through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Primary Health Care Project.