Saturday 17th is World Prematurity Day. You may have seen much on this over the last month or so on the Internet, on people's blogs you follow. Much good work is being done to raise awareness. As I have done a fair bit of this myself in the past I wondered what I could do to help this year. On this blog last year I published guest posts from premature parents with an array of different experiences and I was really happy with what we achieved. As blog visits tripled and sometimes quadrupled I hoped that this meant that people who did not previously know too much about prematurity had gained an insight into what happens to the 1 in 10 women who give birth to very poorly babies. I think the same is even truer this year as my Facebook news feed and blog reader is flooded with WPD and I hope that these are reaching people who are not already aware of the issues in case it some day happens to them.
I have told my story many times (though you can find it by clicking the premature babies link on the right hand side if you haven't seen it) so I figure that this year I will focus on what I feel is the most important thing; reduction, if not prevention of premature birth. And as Bliss say,
'Through joint efforts including World Prematurity Day on November 17, members call for actions to prevent preterm birth and improve care for babies born preterm'.
Tommy's also aim to improve outcomes by taking a three-fold approach, raising funds for medical research, supporting families of premature infants, and offering lifestyle advice so that mothers-to-be can have knowledge of how to avoid some of the known triggers of premature labour.
So what can we do to make a real difference in terms of improving care and outcomes? This year I have chosen to make a donation to my chosen charity, The Grace Research Fund (of which I am on the committee as a parent representative). Here are a few things you could do, though this is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Donating money and fundraising to help underfunded local units. Your money could fund better facilities for parents or go towards vital medical or training equipment.
- Donate to charities that support research into the causes and issues surrounding premature birth. In the UK these include Bliss, Tommy's, The Grace Research Fund (directly funding medical research in partnership with the University of Warwick), The March of Dimes (US) and numerous other more local/regional charities. Seek them out and support them as much as you are able.
- Donating the clothes your preemie wore to local units. You have no idea how much it means to the parents to see their tiny son or daughter in their first piece of clothing, yet clothing is not easy to come by if your baby is born an extremely low birth weight.
- Campaigning and contacting MP's with concerns about how health reforms will affect Neonatal units. This means acting as an advocate for babies who cannot speak for themselves.
- Donate your time to a local unit, either as a Bliss buddy, champion or family volunteer. Your face to face support could mean the world to parents currently going through one of the most stressful events that can happen to a family.
- Donate blood or breast milk. I was lucky enough to be able to express breast milk, but not all mothers are able. My daughter also required two blood transfusions in the first 3 weeks of her time in NICU. You could be saving a very sick baby's life or help to give them the best start in life through precious breast milk.
And finally, don't forget to join Tommy's, Bliss and others on Friday 16th November for the World Prematurity Day worldwide twitter relay - follow hashtag #WorldPrematurityDay (1-2pm for the UK leg). Alas, I shall be at work, but I shall be there in spirit :)