On 11 April 2015 we celebrate International Maternal Health Day. There are so many reasons why improving maternal health is beneficial to us individually, communally and economically. One specific result of improved maternal health is the reduction in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
ROP is a disease that occurs in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. This growth can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye, leading to blindness.
Our understanding of ROP is changing. Traditionally the view was that high oxygen exposure was the cause. While it is certainly one of the major factors, studies now show that it is not just exposure to oxygen or other toxic agents after birth, but may also relate to actions that occur to the foetus prior to birth. As many as one third of ROP cases may be the result of prenatal conditions. (Understanding Retinopathy of Prematurity, Richard L. Windsor, O.D., F.A.A.O., Laura K. Windsor, O.D., F.A.A.O. Published in Vision Enhancement Journal)
To prevent ROP, good prenatal and maternal health care is essential. This care lessens the risk of delivering premature infants. Then careful monitoring of oxygen therapy and other risk factors are crucial.
In 2013 Foresight donated three new infant incubators with resuscitation function and warmers to the Solomon Island’s National Referral Hospital (Honiara). The Labour and Neonatal Unit now meets the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) international standards and is able to provide the careful monitoring required for premature babies.