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Maternal nurses say congenital defects on the rise due to air pollution

By E.OYUNDARI

Nurses at Ulaanbaatar’s leading maternity hospital hold air pollution responsible for a dramatic rise in the number of pregnant women giving birth to babies with brain damage and significant birth defects.
Speaking with the UB Post on the condition of anonymity, a senior neonatal nurse with over thirty years experience at Ulaanbaatar’s First Maternity Hospital explained that since 2000, she and her colleagues have seen a notable rise in congenital and birth defects as air pollution has worsened.
Babies born with intracranial pressure, cleft palates, cleft lips and other birth defects were rare in the post-Soviet period, while birth defects – especially preterm births – have become increasingly common. Research suggests that a leading factor in the growing number of preterm births could be related to high levels of exposure to carbon monoxide produced by coal burning.
“Today almost all newborn infants are being born with brain damage due to oxygen deficiency to the brain and heart problems to a certain extent,” the nurse explained.
“With those infants, we have to take special measures to provide them with the oxygen they require to lessen the effects of potential brain damage. Such equipment filters out the majority of pollution in the air. However it should be used to deliver oxygen to only one infant, but as we lack resources, often two infants will share one such piece of equipment. We need more oxygen machines in order to save the lives of more children,” she said.
The nurse stated that, “pregnant women who become exposed to even very low levels of air pollution risk giving birth to babies that are underweight. It seems that pregnant women who live in ger district areas are especially affected. They also suffer from greater numbers of miscarriages, when compared to women from other parts of the city.”
In an interview with Eagle news last July, Health Minister N.Udval acknowledged some of these negative health trends. “Rates of miscarriage have notably increased in recent years,” she said. “We are also concerned about the growing number of preterm and stillbirth pregnancies.”
She also spoke to government efforts to ensure that mothers and babies remain healthy. “Having healthy children born from a healthy mother is the main focus of the health sector,” she said. “Thus the Health Ministry has announced a campaign for the next five years as ‘Years to support the health of mothers and children’. It aims to encourage the birth of healthy children from healthy mothers, encourage women to become pregnant while they are healthy, make better family planning decisions, while improving medical training standards.”
“A preterm infant requires a different approach towards both recovery and diagnosis… Within the year to support health of mothers and children, we should make large changes to developing special strategies to regulate preterm birth and try to meet world health standards.”
“A survey conducted by the Health Ministry, with the support of WHO (World Health Organization) on air pollution’s effect on human health, shows that air pollution can significantly affect the health development of infants. In recent years, the birth defect development rate of newborns has been on the rise. It is not only cleft lip and palates or defective organ development, the development of defects covers many organ systems, leading to an increase of defective embryos, which are not viable. Accordingly, the government has opened the center for early diagnosis of embryo and defects in infant development at the National Center of Mother and Child’s Health,” said the Health Minister.
While government efforts continue, for now, pregnant women must rely mostly on themselves in order to protect their infants from defects as a result of air pollution. The neonatal nurse we spoke to strongly advises pregnant women to prevent exposure to air pollution in order to avoid these hazardous health implications. “We know that not everyone can afford air purifiers and such things. So instead, we now advise women that the one and only way to give birth to a healthy child, and to ensure that they avoid giving birth to children with brain damage and heart problems, is to live in the fresh air – that is, as far from Ulaanbaatar as possible.”

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=7537

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