How the war in Ukraine is causing a rise in premature babies

In Ukrainian maternities, many babies are born too early, the result of the war and its effects on pregnant women.

How the war in Ukraine is causing a rise in premature babies

In Ukrainian maternities, many babies are born too early, the result of the war and its effects on pregnant women. According to the global health agency Unitaid, the conflict against Russia has caused a significant increase in premature births in health centers, also causing an increase in the need for oxygen therapy devices for these infants, often in difficulty.

In question ? The Russian invasion in Ukraine "raises the stress level of pregnant women, which leads to an increase in the number of reported premature births", Unitaid spokesman Hervé Verhoosel told a press conference. in Geneva, this Tuesday, August 9.

Bombings, loss of loved ones, evacuations... the stress caused by the war could thus seriously affect births in the country, which has been in the grip of war since February 2024. "In some hospitals with which our partners spoke during training at the use of the material, there were increases of 12 to up to 40%", explained Hervé Verhoosel.

"Babies born prematurely are more likely to develop respiratory, neurological or digestive complications - conditions that often require treatment with oxygen," explained Hervé Verhoosel.

To help Ukraine cope with this wave of premature babies, Unitaid has sent 220 devices to administer oxygen and 125 oxygen mixing systems (to regulate its concentration). They are now available in 25 centers across the country, 17 of which are perinatal centers.

"For the moment, given the situation, many more traditional births without complications do not take place in hospitals, which receive more difficult cases. Which contributes to the increase in the percentages. But the increase is very real “, specifies the spokesperson of Unitaid to AFP.

According to Inserm, the socio-economic conditions of mothers, such as stress, greatly influence the number of premature babies. "Thus, the rate of prematurity is twice lower among female executives than in the worker and employee category", mentioned the institution in an information note published in 2017, which recalls that other factors are associated, such as tobacco use or age.

The conflict in Ukraine has damaged or destroyed many hospitals, an additional difficulty. "This puts thousands of newborns at high risk of disability or death due to a lack of access to oxygen, necessary equipment and essential treatment," the spokesperson said. Unitaid. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 434 attacks on health services since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 366 of which have hit health facilities.

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