Friday 17 November was World Prematurity Day. Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. The day is to raise awareness of premature births and the impact it can have on families.
We spoke to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) Matron Manju V Thomas at Conquest Hospital.
“World Prematurity Day is now in its 15th year but this is the first year we have really got involved. We are a small unit and we want everyone to know about the work we do and celebrate the team.”
The unit has 32 staff and 12 cots for the babies, four of which are ITC, six special care and two isolation cots.
“We are a Level 1 unit which means we take babies born from 32 weeks or full-term but are unwell. Any babies born before 32 weeks will be referred to either Brighton or Ashford hospitals. The most common reasons babies are unwell when they are born are from jaundice, they are hypoglycaemic or they have respiratory infections. These tend to be seasonal and we are busier during the colder months as babies are very susceptible to getting chills.”
“It can be a hugely stressful time for parents and families and we want to make them as comfortable as we possibly can. We have two rooms for parents to stay in, we encourage as many to stay that can. It helps to bond with the babies and to establish breast feeding at lot easier when the mother is so close.”
Virtual tours of the 13 neonatal units in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, including the Special Care Baby Unit at Conquest Hospital launched last and will be very beneficial for parents to be able to familiarise themselves with the units before they visit them.
“Sometimes we know in advance if a mother is likely to be giving birth prematurely and we can help them prepare. If they are already admitted then a neonatal nurse can go and speak to them, explain what will happen after labour and what we do on in SCBU. If possible, they can come and visit the unit and see where the babies stay, where they can stay and meet the team. Parents are allowed to visit 24 hours a day. We also have leaflets available with QR codes taking parents to information on what we do, what the unit’s guidelines are and advice on feeding.”
“As this can be an emotionally stressful for time for families our nurses are all trained to be on the look out if some are particularly struggling with the situation. Parents can be referred to the Perinatal health team to be able to talk to someone about what they are going through. We also have Outreach Nurses who make home visits to families where the baby has been premature but is well enough to be discharged”
“We had a bake sale as part of the celebrations last week and to help raise valuable money for the unit so we can provide more blankets and be able to offer food and drinks to the parents staying in the unit with their babies. Just a little thing like providing a sandwich and cup of tea means there is one thing less for the parents to have to worry about”