The minister of Health Dr. Christine Ondoa has urged expectant mothers to attend antenatal care and undergo thorough medical check-up to prevent premature births.
Speaking during an inauguration of the World Prematurity Day at Mulago Nursing School grounds on 17th Saturday, Ondoa said expectant mothers should attend antenatal care at least four times before delivery as required of them.
"Medical check-up done during antenatal care enables medical workers identify mothers who are at risk of premature labour. Interventions in form of medication against risk factors like hypertension, fevers and sexually transmitted infections, are done to prevent preterm labour," Ondoa said.
She said such risk factors if not attended to negatively impact on the pregnancy and the health of both the baby and the mother.
Ondoa also encouraged mothers to use family planning services to space child birth and reduce maternal deaths. "Use of family planning services helps a mother's body to recover and build up a reserve ready for the next baby," Ondoa said.
The manager Saving Newborn Lives program under Save the Children, Dr. Hanifah Naamala Sengendo said giving medicine to prevent preterm labor and drugs to help the baby breathe better is very important in preventing premature labour.
"Two steroid injections of dexamethasone when given to an expectant mother experiencing preterm labor stimulate maturity of the baby's lungs and stop babies from developing breathing problems when they are born and in many cases prevent deaths," she said.
The drug is available in government health facilities free of charge and in private facilities it costs shs2500.
The chairman national newborn steering committee, Dr. Gelasius Mukasa urged stakeholders in the prevention of premature births to do less talking and take action.
"Let us get committed to preventing preterm birth because it is the second leading cause of newborn deaths in Uganda after pneumonia. The death of newborns contributes to the death of infants which is a great contributor to the overall child mortality rate," Mukasa said.
Currently, in Uganda 31% of children who die under the age of five are newborns. It is estimated that about 16,000 newborns die of complications from preterm birth each year accounting for 38% of neonatal deaths.
The launch of World Prematurity Day is part of the Every Woman Every Child movement which is led by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. The programme is aimed at taking forward the global strategy for women and children's health and the achievement of the health MDGS 4 and 5