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World Prematurity Day 2020: what is it, and why is it important?

I’d never heard about World Prematurity Day… until I had premature babies. This is why the day is so important.

I start this piece with a confession: up until 2019, I’d never heard about World Prematurity Day. I never paid attention to it, I never even knew about it.

Really though, I never had a reason to… until my sons were born 13 weeks prematurely. Now, as a parent of preterm children, it’s a day I pay full attention to.

Carl MacDonald with twin sons in NICU

World Prematurity Day is an important day on the calendar for parents of premature babies. Find out more about the day and its importance here.

What is World Prematurity Day?

World Prematurity Day is a global awareness day that aims to draw attention to preterm birth and the associated problems for babies and families.

It first started in 2011 and has grown over recent years as prematurity becomes a more widely discussed and studied topic.

When is World Prematurity Day?

World Prematurity Day takes place on the 17th November each year. It is the focal day for Prematurity Awareness Month, which spans November.

What is the theme for World Prematurity Day 2020?

The theme for World Prematurity Day 2020 is: “Together for babies born too soon – Caring for the future”.

The focus is on supporting families with premature babies, helping to improve the healthcare systems in place for preterm births, and to highlight the work done by healthcare professionals working on neonatal units and wards.

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Why is World Prematurity Day important?

1 in 10 babies are born prematurely worldwide each year… and sadly, a million don’t survive.

Many people – myself included until I was thrust suddenly into the situation – still don’t understand or even know what prematurity can mean. In 2019, two of the estimated 60,000 premature babies in the UK were mine, and at the time it felt like a journey my wife and I travelled alone.

Having a baby in NICU can be daunting, scary and lonely. It’s an experience that stays with you for a long time, but at the time you often feel as though there’s nowhere to turn.

I can happily report that my sons managed to overcome their extreme prematurity. Though there were several bumps in the road to recovery, they’re now happy, healthy and thriving at home where they belong.

Unfortunately, not all parents get to bring their premature babies home. That’s why we need to continue to raise awareness of prematurity: to support parents and families at such a difficult time.

How can you get involved and show your support?

There are several ways you can show your support and help to raise awareness on World Prematurity Day.

Social media

Social media will be abuzz with conversation, opinion, experiences and tips, so be sure to get involved in the conversation (or read others’ views). The hashtags to follow and use on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are:

  • #WorldPrematurityDay
  • #WorldPrematurityDay2020
  • #WorldPrematurityDay20
  • #PrematurityAwarenessMonth

The prematurity charity, Bliss, is also inviting parents who’ve experienced the turbulence of having premature babies to share their stories and experiences with the hashtag #IWishIdKnown. The idea is that this can help support parents going through similar situations now and in the future, and to provide comfort that they are not alone.

Wear purple

The colour purpleis seen as the most synonymous with World Prematurity Day, so wearing something purple is a great way to show your support. If you don’t have a purple t-shirt or jumper, go for something more subtle like a ribbon, scarf, tie or hairband.

Some people have pledged to dye their hair people for the occasion (alas, I’m folically challenged, so that option passes me by).

Light a candle or decorate

You can also show support by shining a purple light or lighting a purple candle in honour of premature babies around the world. Or why not create a sock line? Hang nine baby socks with one smaller purple one to symbolise the one in ten babies born prematurely.

The charity Tiny Lives Trust is also asking people to display a great with tiny footprints in their windows – you can print one out here.

Caring for the premature babies of the future

Despite incredible advances in medical care and improvements in the outlook for preterm babies, prematurity remains the single biggest cause of death in children under 5. We’ve come a long way, but there’s a way to go – let’s continue raising awareness together.

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