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
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
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
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
Monday, 31 December 2012 13:02

Persistent Language Problems

Babies born premature have poorer language abilities when compared to their peers at seven years of age, a Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study has found.

Researchers investigated language abilities in 198 children born very preterm (less than 32 weeks) and very low birth weight (less than 1500 grams) at seven years of age and compared their performance with 70 children who were born at term. Researchers also looked for white matter abnormalities as they hypothesised those children born preterm would demonstrate impaired language function because of the presence of diffuse white matter abnormalities.

The study, which is published in Journal of Pediatrics, found the group of children born very premature performed significantly worse than the children born at term on all language areas assessed including spoken word awareness, semantics, grammar, discourse and pragmatics.

The study showed that white matter abnormality occurring during the neonatal period was a key predictive factor for four out of five language areas seven years later. White matter abnormalities were associated with performance in phonological awareness, semantics, grammar, and discourse.

However, the results indicated that other factors associated with prematurity are also likely to influence language ability. Researchers said it's possible that environmental factors provide additional influence on language abilities; however, say further research is needed to understand the most significant determinants of cognitive skills.

Lead researcher, A/Professor Peter Anderson said the study highlights that families should closely monitor their child's language development.

The study, which is published in Journal of Pediatrics, found the group of children born very premature performed significantly worse than the children born at term on all language areas assessed including spoken word awareness, semantics, grammar, discourse and pragmatics.

"Language development is a clinically important area of development concern in these children. Paying close attention to a premature babies' language development is essential for parents so that discrepancies from normal development can be discovered and addressed during early childhood."

Researchers from the Institute are now developing a new preventive intervention for premature babies, which they hope will enhance language development, along with other functional outcomes.

Published in Industry News
Saturday, 27 October 2012 13:27

Caffeine & Preterm Infants

Caffeine therapy is frequently used to reduce apnea in infants born preterm. It has been shown to improve both short- and long-term outcomes in preemies born less than 1,250 grams. In an Australia study called Caffeine in Apnea of Prematurity (CAP for short) the proportion of infants with lung injury called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) was lower when caffeine treatment started within the first 10 days of life compared with a placebo. Additionally, these researchers found that at 18 months preemies were less likely to be developmentally delayed or have cerebral palsy.

It is thought that the improvement in neurological outcome for preterm babies who have received caffeine therapy is due to the effect on cerebral white matter. Researchers from the CAP study reported that preemies who received caffeine for apnea may have more mature cerebral white matter organization. They also suggest that caffeine may be exerting a direct neuroprotective effect

The CAP study is now in the process of looking at the long-term outcome following caffeine treatment and will perform neuropsychological, lung functioning, and imaging analyzes on these children at age 11 years.

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
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
Sunday, 29 January 2012 15:58

Steroids Help Micro Preemies

A recent study has found that treating women at risk of preterm birth as early as 22 to 23 weeks gestation improved the survival of extremely preterm infants. Babies born this early are colloquially called micro preemies. Due to extreme prematurity, micro preemies have a reduced chance of survival and are at increased risk for a number of health complications, such as respiratory distress syndrome, patent ductus artiosus, retinopathy of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis, and intraventricular hemorrhage.

Women who are at risk of preterm delivery are treated with antenatal corticosteroids (steroids for short) to help the infant’s immature lungs develop. Various studies have provided evidence for the effectiveness of steroids for decreasing mortality and morbidity in preterm infants. Typically, women at high risk of preterm birth between 24 to 34 weeks gestation are treated with steroids, however the use of steroids in women between 22 to 26 weeks gestation has been low and there is wide international and regional variation in their use. A research team in Japan sough to evaluate the effectiveness of antenatal corticosteroids to improve neonatal outcomes for infants born at less than 24 weeks of gestation. This was an important study as steroid use at this early stage may have large ramifications for survival and morbidity in the most vulnerable and tiniest of preterm babies.

The study involved the analysis of 11,607 infants born at 22 to 33 weeks gestation between 2003 and 2007. They evaluated the gestational age effects of treating women threatened with preterm birth with steroids on several factors related to neonatal morbidity and mortality. The most important finding of this study was that treatment with antenatal corticosteroids improved the survival of extremely preterm infants, including the tiniest micro preemies; babies born 22 to 23 weeks gestation.

Other results from the study demonstrated that steroid treatment was effective in decreasing respiratory distress syndrome, brain injury (intraventricular hemorrhage), surfactant use, and duration of oxygen use in preterm infants born between 24 and 29 weeks of gestation but not for the smaller micro preemies.

Published in Industry News
Friday, 10 May 2013 14:01

Preemies School-age

Extremely preterm babies or extremely small prems are still behind their term born counterparts in relation to intellectual, educational, and behavioral outcomes by the time they reach school-age.

A study conducted in Victoria led by the Royal Women's Hospital followed up 189 extremely preterm or extremely low birth weight babies (less than 28 weeks gestation or weighing less than 1,000g) and 173 term born children at school-age. The areas assessed were intellectual ability, spelling, reading, mathematics, and a range of behavioral outcomes.

They found that 71% of the preterm born children had a cognitive, educational, or behavioral impairment at 8 years of age. In addition, up to 47% showed multiple areas of concern. These rates are much higher than that of the term born group which was 42% and 16% respectively. The major areas of concern were reading and spelling impairment which were double the rates in preemies compared with children born full term. The researchers also reported that 15% of the prems had a significant neurosensory impairment such as cerebral palsy.

Parents also completed questionnaires about their children which revealed that the preterm group had more behavioral problems including higher rates of hyperactivity, inattention, emotional problems, and peer relationship problems.

The positive message from this research is that the majority of babies born so early and small are now surviving without major disabilities.

This research highlights the need for early identification of children likely to have difficulties and early intervention strategies need to be employed to help these children before school-age.

Published in Industry News
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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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