Born Prematurely – Dr Neil Chapman – 2nd July 2017                

‘Why an early birthday goes wrong.’

Dr Neil Chapman, is Group Leader and non-Clinical Lecturer in Reproductive Medicine at Jessops Hospital , Dept. of Oncology & Metabolism. If anyone was in doubt as to the value of Sheffield’s Hospitals, Dr Chapman soon dispelled any uncertainty.  Fortunately no-one in my family has had to call on the skills and knowledge at Jessups but some of my acquaintances have.   Gratefully so, I might add.

A round figure of some 15,000,000 people around the world are born too soon.  This results in many possible complications and long-term damage.  Of these, one million will die as a result.  A majority of the deaths will occur in babies born  very prematurely,  between 28 and 30 weeks gestation.

Jessops Maternity Wing manages 7,000 deliveries per year.  As yet, doctors do not have sufficient knowledge to prevent them when problems involving premature birth arise.  Surprisingly there are comparatively few medicines to prevent premature labour.  Those medicines that do exist may be counter productive and can cause problems for mother and child.

The cells in the wall of the womb contain nuclei and DNA or genomes, which control womb contractions.  They can be compared to a library of instructions.  Each book represents an individual gene.  The basic genes are described as A,T,C and G which interact between themselves functioning as an instruction book.  Somehow, during pregnancy the womb changes from an inflexible organ, to a softer pliable one as labour approaches.  Despite the complex reaction between A,T,C and G how it works is still not completely understood.  The comparison Dr Chapman made to a Land Rover’s servicing schedule, is a doddle it seems to me, compared with our friends A,T,C and G and what they get up to.

I am amazed at the  degree of study and knowledge the medical specialists have acquired.  Yet, it appears that there are vast tracts of unknowns out there.

We were reminded that it was only as recently as 1860 that Darwin was studying embryology and the origin of species.  Wouldn’t he be amazed at the present state of advanced knowledge?  Birth and death was in his eyes an example of survival of the fittest.