Displaying items by tag: preterm birth
Friday, 23 November 2012 10:19

Brain Growth & Preemies

Neuroscientists in the US have found that the rate of brain growth in the weeks before preterm babies reach their expected due date is related to their cognitive (thinking and learning) abilities as children. It was found that between 24 to 44 weeks postmentrual age (PMA) that the rate of cerebral cortical growth is able to predict complex cognitive functioning but not motor skills in later childhood. Postmentrual age refers to your preemies gestational weeks plus their chronological age.

The study involved performing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain of 82 preterm infants up to 8 times. They also took part in a battery of neuropsychological tests at age 2 and 6 years.

The results indicate that the period before a full term brith, the last gestational weeks in the uterus, are critical for brain development, so for preemie babies the more the cerebral cortex grows early in life the better their outcome when they reach 6 years of age.

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 11:42

Psychiatric Risk for Preemies

BABIES born very preterm, before 32 weeks' gestation, have higher rates of psychiatric disorders by school age compared with their peers.

A study by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne shows a number of factors that predict which very preterm children are at higher risk. These factors include brain abnormalities soon after birth, a history of social-emotional problems and social risk.

Social risk factors include family structure, education of primary caregiver, language spoken at home and mother's age when the child was born.

Lead researcher, clinical psychologist Dr Karli Treyvaud says the results offer hope as the risk factors can be identified early in life, increasing the opportunity for intervention.

The study, which included 177 very preterm children (VPT) and 65 children born at term, found almost one quarter of the VPT children were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder by age seven. This is three times higher than their peer group.

The most common diagnoses were anxiety disorders (11 per cent), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (10 per cent) and autism spectrum disorders (4.5 per cent).

The rate of autism among children born pre-term was about four times higher than recent Australian population estimates. Dr Treyvaud said the 11 per cent of children born pre-term in the study who had anxiety disorders compared with 8 per cent for those born full-term.

For ADHD, the 10 per cent of children born pre-term who had the condition compared with 3 per cent born full-term.

Published in Industry News
Sunday, 01 June 2014 11:40

Stem Cells Could Help Preterm Infants

Premature babies have underdeveloped lungs and often have difficulty breathing by themselves. Respiratory distress syndrome and chronic lung disease are the most common breathing difficulties related to preterm birth.

Difficulty breathing due to underdeveloped lungs is often a common consequence of preterm birth that needs immediate attention. Respiratory distress syndrome, also called hyaline membrane disease (HMD), is the most common lung disorder in preterm infants. Preterm infants do not produce enough of a slippery, protective substance called surfactant, which helps the lungs inflate with air and keeps them from collapsing, when the infant tries to breathe in air, after birth, by themself. Preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome are treated with exogenous surfactant and has been shown to decrease neonatal mortality in very low birth weight and preterm infants. Where possible steroids are given to mother’s before a preterm delivery to help prevent problems associated with underdeveloped organs and lung immaturity.

Early difficulties with breathing and the need for ventilation can result in chronic lung disease (CLD), also called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which is common in babies born preterm. CLD is a disorder that results from inflammation, injury, and scarring of the airways and the alveoli.

New research which has focused on lung problems associated with preterm birth has reported some fascinating findings. Dr. Bernard Thébaud, who is a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and The Ottawa Hospital, published a paper in the medical journal Circulation reporting findings that showed that damaged lungs of preterm infants can be safely repaired using stem cells and regenerative medicine. This is the first study to demonstrate the use of vascular progenitor cells (stem cells that make blood vessels) for this purpose.

Research findings so far are based on research conducted on lab animals but the next phase of the study will begin working on opportunities for clinical trials.

These research findings have huge implications for the treatment of lung disease in preterm infants as well as the potential regeneration of other organs and other lung diseases in adult populations. This research is very important, not just for the short-term benefits but also the potential long-term benefits. For example, a lack of oxygen to other parts of the preemie infant’s body can result in other difficulties. For example, lack of oxygen can affect brain and eye development. Respiratory problems are the most common cause of death in preterm infants, although these problems have lessened over time, and they also have a large effect on other health outcomes. That is, they are related to high rates of cognitive (thinking and reasoning), motor skills, educational, and behavioural difficulties.

Research such as this could be a great step in lessening the burden and stress for families of preterm infants who often have to deal with many and varied many challenges.

Published in Industry News
Saturday, 21 April 2012 13:32

Controversial: Too Small?

"I missed out on that joyful, happy moment that most people have, because I was so profoundly overcome with, she's so early."

A sentiment many parents of preemies will no doubt relate to. Every now and then, you will read articles in the news, or there might be a story on TV that discusses the issue of, “How small is too small?”

Medical and technological advances have ensured the chance of preterm babies surviving have increased significantly over the past 20 years, further still the limits of what babies at what gestational age can survive are often pushed to the extreme. Preterm babies born less than 25 weeks, sometimes called micropreemies, can invoke discussion about the moral, ethical, and financial ramifications of pushing for survival at any cost. This is true for doctors and parents themselves. For example, the question, “what level and type of care should be provided to the tiniest preterm babies?”, is often posed.

In Japan, babies born at 22 weeks are considered capable of sustaining life, in Australia, the attitude is to try an actively give the baby a chance of survival, whereas other countries advocate for “compassionate care” prior to 25 weeks gestation due to the low chance of survival. In Sweden, Norway, Finland, they don't resuscitate a baby under 25 weeks’ gestation. They say we're going to use that money for prenatal care. In the United States, babies born at 22 weeks are not resuscitated. At 25 weeks, every baby is resuscitated because more than 75% survive.

Despite the fact that medical advances improve the chance of a preterm baby surviving at younger and younger gestational ages; the stats still are not great for the tiniest of these babies, the questionable zone is usually 23 to 24 weeks; preemies born at 23 to 24 weeks have around 15-40% chance of survival but for those micropreemies who make it they also have a 30-50% chance of having a severe disability, such as cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, blindness, deafness, or a combination of these, and a further 25-40% will have mild to moderate disabilities such as subtle forms of visual impairment, mild cerebral palsy affecting motor control, chronic asthma, learning difficulties, and behavior problems like attention deficit disorder.

Some parents of babies born at 22 weeks want everything done possible to help their baby survive, while sometimes parents of babies born at 23-24 weeks ask that nothing aggressive be done. It can be a very difficult decision for parents to make. The overwhelming portrayal of preterm babies in the media is the “miracle survival” of such tiny babies. It is rare for discussion of the potential long-term difficulties associated with such an early birth. Phyllis Dennery, chief of neonatology and newborn services at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, explains that "It's very dangerous to make this out to be a wonderful success, the reality is often quite different."

Often part of the discussion revolves around the costs involved in keeping these tiny preemie babies alive and the ongoing cost of their treatment and care. According to some estimates the average cost of care of a preterm baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is US$4,000 to $5,000 per day. In the United States the estimated annual societal economic burden associated with preterm birth was in excess of $26.2 billion in 2005, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. For some countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, that don't resuscitate a baby under 25 weeks, instead advocate the use of that money for prenatal care of babies with a better chance of surviving and better chance of long-term outcomes.

A major issue is that many people don’t understand the consequences, both short- and long-term of giving birth too soon. Once a preterm baby survives many think that’s the end of it.

"We tend to think that prematurity is a problem that the minute you walk out of the nursery it's over. That's the furthest thing from the truth. More and more studies are coming out that there are long-term consequences of prematurity. If you look at lung growth, brain growth, these are all altered by the fact that you are born too early. Prematurity is with you for the rest of your life."

Published in Industry News
Sunday, 08 December 2013 15:10

Algorithm Predicts Premature Births

About three decades ago, my girlfriend came to the world as a preemie, born in the 33rd week of pregnancy. She weighed only 3.7 lbs. For the record: every birth before the 37th week of gestation is considered preterm and hence risky. There were no complications, and she grew up healthily and normally. The truth is: there is a lot that could have gone wrong. There are things the doctors didn't know in the 1980ies.

One of these things is that during the last weeks of gestation, the development of the unborn's cerebral cortex takes place. Earlier this year, resesarchers of the King's College London have published a study in PNAS that shows the effect of preterm births on the developing brain: it can cause inferior cognitive performance in infants. Visual-spatial processing, decision making and working memory might all be affected. In order to assess this, the lead author, KCL's David Edwards, investigated the growth and density of nerve cells using diffusion MRI (dMRI).

Moreover, there are strong indications preterm births are a risk factor for sudden infant death, autism, ADHD and cerebral palsy. The CDC names preterm births as a risk factor for cerebral palsy, too. Breaking Bad co-star RJ Mitte suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy. It remains unclear, though, whether his condition was caused by preterm birth or not. A recent study suggests that also exposition to phthalates (contained in food, industry and hygiene products) are one of the causes for preterm deliveries.

But hope is underway. In a recent study published in PLOS ONE, computer scientist Paul Fergus and his team of researchers have found a way to predict preterm births using machine learning and the right data. They obtained the data by harnessing electrohysterography (EHG), that is measurng electrical signals of uterine activity. This method has been used before to measure the contractions during labour.

What Fergus' algorithm does is classify the recorded signals into term and preterm signals. The trick is to measure the uterine signals early on. The paper states that "distinct contraction-related, electrical uterine activity is present early on in pregnancy, even when a woman is not in true labour." The amount of these signals increases steadily during the pregnancy and shoots up during the last three to four days.

The new method is still prone to errors and produces results of varying quality, depending on the underlying data. The number of examined records suggests Fergus was not exactly using big data. 300 records of which only 38 were preterm records. Fergus himself states in the conclusion of his paper, that the low number of preterm records didn't allow the machine learning classifiers to learn properly. Even though, the concept works and seems promising. Once all errors have been eliminated, the technique could predict a "Yes" or "No" to answer the question "Will my child be born on term?" The resarchers suggest to further improve the quality of the algorithm's outcome in the future: The answer could then be how many weeks remain until the birth.

Published in Industry News
Monday, 31 March 2014 13:52

Preterm Infants: Visual Processing

An Australia research project looking at the long-term outcome of preterm birth on visual processing has found that despite advances in medical care improving the survival rate of high-risk extremely low birth weight and/or extremely preterm infants, visual morbidity is still relatively high compared with controls in late adolescence.

 

Ocular growth and development differ between extremely low birth weight (ELBW, ,1000 g) or extremely preterm (EP, gestational age ,28 weeks) and term children and may have long-term negative consequences for visual function. Visual sensory and perceptual skills are important for a range of functions and everyday activities, such as classroom learning, overall school performance,successful social interaction, and social cognition. Consequently, understanding the nature and frequency of visual deficits in ELBW/EP children is vital to inform adequate and appropriately targeted clinical follow-up and to increase focus on developing avenues for remediation.

The study involved following up 228 extremely preterm survivors born in Victoria in 1991 and 1992 and 166 randomly selected normal birth weight controls. The participants were assessed between the ages of 14 and 20 years of age. Visual acuity, stereopsis, convergence, color perception, and visual perception were assessed and contrasted between groups.

The researchers reported that adolescents born extemely preterm had worse visual acuity, poorer depth perception, and more problems with visual perception. Given the potential importance of visual perceptual skills to more complex tasks and academic achievement, these results have important clinical relevance.

Published in Industry News
Sunday, 21 April 2013 12:50

Live Music Benefits Preemies

A large study in the US as found that live music can be beneficial to preterm babies.

The study was lead by Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and involved 11 hospitals. Music therapists helped parents of preemies change their favorite tunes into lullabies.

The researchers have reported that live music, played or sung, helped to slow preterm infants' heartbeats, calm their breathing, improve sucking behavior, which are important for feeding, aid sleep, and promote states of quiet alertness. These factors are important as reducing stress and stabilizing vital signs allows preterm infants to dedicate more energy to growing and developing.

One reason which might explain how live music helps preemies is that music is organised, purposeful sound amid the unpredictable, overstimulating noise of neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Sounds can be damaging but meaningful noise is important for a baby's brain development.

Future research may look at how benefits in heart rate and respiratory rate, as a result of live music, affect clinical improvements such as removing oxygen or feeding tubes sooner.

Another benefit observed from this study was that parent preferred lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding and thus decrease the stress parents experience when caring for a preemie baby.

Published in Industry News
Monday, 10 December 2012 17:45

L’il Aussie Prems Foundation

L’il Aussie Prems Foundation is Australia’s largest online support community and forum for families of prematurely born children and sick newborns. They are a voluntary not-for-profit organisation set up to provide online support, raise awareness, bring parents together who have traveled a similar path whilst encouraging families to share their personal and unique journey through our website. No matter where families are located geographically, our website and support services are assessable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Foundation’s website was initially established in 2007 by a premmie mum who gave birth to her first son at 27 weeks gestation. The forum and website continue to offer a lifeline to families. In October 2012, with the goal of expanding the online support provided to families, L’il Aussie Prems Foundation became a registered charity, incorporated in the state of Victoria.

The Foundations committee members are all parents who have each experienced a very personal and unique journey after the premature birth of their children. As members of the forum community for many years, they each understand the vulnerability parents feel in a similar situation, the importance of an online community and the integral role the Foundation plays with offering a safe and supportive environment to each family.

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 17:06

Wear Green for Premmies

A SEA OF GREEN IN SUPPORT OF PREMMIE BABIES

Last year saw the phenomenal success of the annual ‘Wear Green for Premmies’ day, an event hosted by the L’il Aussie Prems Foundation and organisers are looking forward to this year’s fundraiser and hope to repeat that success again on Wednesday 3rd April 2013.

Wear Green for Premmies is a day where thousands of people in Australia and around the world wear green clothing or purchase wristbands to show their support and raise awareness of the trials and hardships of premature babies and their families.

Over the past two years, members and their families have joined in the celebration with photos being posted on the event's page to show a sea of green in support of all children born too soon. Last year saw thousands of Facebook participants including eight hospitals and many businesses showing their support.

Part of the proceeds from wristband sales from the past two years of celebrations has been equally distributed to charities and causes all over the country but this year proceeds will be used to purchase items and are being donated directly to 2 Special Care Nurseries and 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Units all for the benefit of affected families. Participants don't have to attend a physical event, but are invited to sign up to the Facebook event and encourage family and friends to wear green, purchase a wristband and fundraise online directly to support the cause.

Now entering into its third year of celebrations, the event and website has grown well beyond the expectations of Ms Toivonen who started the support website in 2007 after the premature birth of her first son at 27 weeks gestation. Ms Toivonen built the online support group as a way to reach out to new parents but also for her own family to gain support from others who had travelled a similar journey.

In late 2012, a committee was formed and the website soon became a registered not-for-profit charity. The committee comprises of parents themselves who are all long time members of the online community. The website and forum has blossomed over the past six years into Australia's largest online community and forum for families with prematurely born children and sick newborns.

For photo opportunities with families in your state or further information: Nicole Powell, Vice President (Communications), L’il Aussie Prems Foundation 0412 378 793 I This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | Wantirna, Victoria


Preemiehelp is interested in hearing from you, please feel free to email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit our Facebook page by following this link

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 19:39

Preemie Help Competition!

Calling all Preemie Parents!

Help Preemie Help, Help Preemies - by entering our preemie photo competition with the chance to win great prizes including, the preemiehelp ebook, “The Complete Guide to: Preemie Development.” and a Earlybirds Gift voucher (2 x $50) from Earlybirds

Enter as many categories you like for a chance to win. The categories are;

  • 1. life in the NICU
  • 2. my brave preemie
  • 3. look at me now!

To enter, visit Earlybirds facebook page at www.facebook.com/earlybirds and make a comment, and then email your photo to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with the title “photo competition - and the category the entry is for”

Best entries will appear on preemiehelp.com and competition winners will be announced on the 30th June. The competition winners as well as our highly recommended entries will also go toward developing a promotional video, please let us know if you would prefer not to be involved, you will still be eligible for the prizes.


Published in Industry News
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AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 


Read More: Defining Preterm birth


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