Olubunmi Lawal, the national president, National Association of Paediatric Nurses, on Saturday, said Nigeria ranked third with about 800,000 pre-term births, annually.
Mrs Lawal disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja as the world commemorates 2018 World Prematurity Day.
This year’s theme is: “Working together, partnering with families in the care of small and sick newborns”.
She said annually, 15 million babies are born premature globally, out of which 60 per cent are born in Sub-Saharan Africa, with one million deaths recorded.
“India ranks first, secondly China and Thirdly, Nigeria with 773,600 pre-term births yearly, hence the need to raise awareness on the challenges and interventions at communities, families, and to government at all levels.
“Premature birth is a common, costly and critical health problem and also the leading cause of new born death and children under the age of five, globally.
“Pre-term births are babies born before 37 completed weeks of gestation,” she said.
Categorised as extremely pre-term are babies less than 28 weeks gestation.
“Others are very pre-term, which are babies born between 28 and 32 weeks gestation and moderate to late pre-term are babies born between 32 weeks and 37 weeks gestation,’’ she said.
Mrs Lawal listed causes of pre-term birth to include placenta abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterus during pregnancy, hormonal changes, which could cause stress to the unborn baby or mother, among others.
She explained that babies born too early may experience a long-term health issue that affects the brain, lungs, vision as well as lifetime disabilities, than babies born at full term.
She added that 75 per cent of such complications could be prevented with adequate equipment, skilled health workers and available intensive care units in healthcare facilities.
“This is a call to action. Pre-term birth is critical and costly to us as a nation, and therefore we want a continuous and sustainable intervention from all stakeholders.
“To achieve Sustainable Development Goal in 2030, the federal and state governments must invest in education, healthcare, research, advocacy and community programmes to help give every baby the chance to survive and thrive,’’ Mrs Lawal said.