Is heatwave to blame for the surge in premature births?

Is heatwave to blame for the surge in premature births?
South Africa - Cape Town - 14 November 2019 - Akhona Hili with her baby Ivakhele Hili who was born at 27 weeks. World Prematurity Day is on 17 November 2019. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year an estimated 15 million infants worldwide are born preterm (over 3 weeks early). The Mowbray Maternity Hospital, the largest dedicated maternity hospital in South Africa, officially opened its doors in 1916 Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Hospitals like Masaka Referral Hospital are grappling with a rise in case of premature babies being delivered

HEALTH | The recent surge in premature births across Uganda has raised questions about whether the extreme heat experienced in recent months could be a contributing factor.

Hospitals like Masaka Referral Hospital are grappling with a high number of premature babies being delivered at their facility.

They say the rate is overwhelming their limited capacity.

Midwife Hajarah Kalinaki sheds light on the issue, stating: "About 50 percent of the causes of premature deliveries are unknown, while the remaining percentage is attributed to complications experienced by expectant mothers and their unborn babies."

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Masaka Referral Hospital is particularly strained, struggling to accommodate the doubled numbers of premature infants born in the region.

While some health workers speculate that the surge in premature births may be linked to the recent heatwave.

"The causes of premature deliveries are multifaceted, with only half currently understood," Ms Kalinaki said.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, the number of premature births had been steadily decreasing until October 2023 and January 2024 when they spiked.

However, they are currently on the decline again.

Kalinaki urges expectant mothers to remain vigilant for signs during pregnancy to mitigate the risk of premature delivery.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, director of public health at the Ministry of Health, notes that while they have not yet received official reports on the surge in premature births, the ministry plans to investigate further.

He dismisses claims that the recent heatwave is to blame for the increase in premature births.

"We do not have the records to substantiate these claims," says Dr Kyabayinze, emphasising the importance of tracking and understanding the alleged surge in premature births.

As the Ministry of Health gears up to investigate this concerning trend, expectant mothers are urged to prioritize prenatal care and stay vigilant for any signs of complications during pregnancy.

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