Purple for Preemies | Western Cape Government


Purple for Preemies

15 November 2018

People worldwide will observe Prematurity Day on Saturday 17 November 2018 to acknowledge the journey of preterm infants and their families.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year an estimated 15 million infants worldwide are born preterm. Sadly, the complications of preterm birth are among the leading causes of death in children under five. All infants born preterm require immediate and significant medical care posing unexpected challenges – emotional and financial – to their parents and family system.

A premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation (pregnancy). In humans, a normal gestational period is from 38 to 42 weeks. Ideally, babies remain in the womb until they are full-term, but for various reasons this does not always happen.  The causes of pre-term birth vary, but in most cases the exact cause is unknown. Most babies in neonatal units weigh 1 500 g and less, which is less than half the weight a normal baby should be. In the Western Cape, 684 babies were born weighing less than 1 kg and 4873 babies were born with a birth weight between 1kg and 2 kgs according to 2017/18 stats.

‘The true strength of a premature baby’s fighting spirit can never be measured by weight, length or gestational age. Premature babies are true survivors. They show us the power of faith and prayer and the fight of the human spirit. They are the embodiment of perseverance. Premature infants are human beings that were born while being under construction. It is in the hands of nurses, doctors, mothers, fathers and families to grow them and guide them safely through hospital stay. To fulfil their destiny and full potential they need the support, input and guidance of their community,’ said Dr Miemie du Preez, senior consultant, Neonatology.

Over 80% of pre-term deaths result from the following preventable and treatable causes: 
Complications of prematurity 
Neonatal infections 
Birth asphyxia 

Western Cape Government Health is combating these unnecessary pre-term deaths in the province. Some of these measures include getting more incubators and supporting campaigns like the purple campaign, which will help the Province save more lives.

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy and infancy for your child

Your child’s health is most vulnerable during the first 1 000 days of its life. We believe that the first 1 000 days in a child’s development, starting from conception, moving through pregnancy, birth, and after the first 2 years of life, are crucial for securing a child’s bright future.

‘We also believe that the healthy early development of a child, and the well-being of the mother, is the responsibility of the community. It takes the whole village to raise a healthy child,’ said Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr. Nomafrench Mbombo.

Research indicates that both the physical and mental development of infants develops rapidly during the 1 000 days period, and the right care and nutrition during this window period helps to:

  • develop their brains
  • fuel their physical growth
  • build up a strong immune system
  • improve their school readiness and educational achievement
  • reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease later in life

The 3 most important aspects of the first 1 000 days are:

  • Health and nutrition, which both mom and baby need (the things you eat and drink). It is very important not to smoke, drink alcohol or do drugs if you may be expecting a baby or are breastfeeding. 
  • Love and attention that your baby needs, and all the support that the mom needs. Both mom and baby need the support and love of fathers, families and the community. 
  • Play and stimulation, which your baby needs for learning as well as the protection of a safe environment – talk to baby, play with baby. Protect your baby from harm, stress and neglect. 

Kangaroo mother care

Kangaroo mother care is a method of care of preterm infants weighing less than 2 kg. It includes exclusive and frequent breastfeeding in addition to skin-to-skin contact and support for both mother and infant, and has been shown to reduce mortality in hospital-based studies in low- and middle-income countries.

Its key features are:

  • early, continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby
  • exclusive breastfeeding (ideally)
  • it is initiated in hospital and can be continued at home
  • small babies can be discharged early
  • mothers at home require adequate support and follow-up
  • it is a gentle, effective method that avoids the agitation routinely experienced in a busy ward with preterm infants

Kangaroo care can help your baby:

  • maintain their body heat
  • regulate their heart and breathing rates
  • gain weight
  • spend more time in deep sleep
  • spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
  • have a better chance of successful breastfeeding and it can also improve a mother's breast milk production

Show your support and wear purple on the 17th!

Media Enquiries: 

Nadia Ferreira
Principal Communications Officer
Western Cape Government Health
Email: Nadia.Ferreira@westerncape.gov.za