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, 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
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 17:06

Wear Green for Premmies


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, 09 March 2014 12:26

New Preemiehelp Store!

Preemie Help is very excited to announce the launch of our Preemie Store!! We invite everyone to visit our site here and check out our cool gear. We have a range of products especially for preemies as well as gorgeous gifts for wonderful preemie mothers, or really anyone you think might deserve a special treat!!


Preemiehelp have had preemie clothes designed especially for preemies with a range of cool and cute designs.

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
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
Thursday, 10 May 2012 18:29

Preemie Mom's Needed!

New Study - Get Involved! “Mother-to-Infant Attachment for Preterm Infants in the NICU: Relationship to Mother’s Intervention Participation and Infant Visitation”

About the Researcher:

I’m Jenny, mother to 4 ½-year-old son, Henry, who was born a preemie at 34 weeks. Now, I’m a doctoral student at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio investigating mother’s activities in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the mother-infant relationship that develops for premature infants during the first year of life.

Current Projects Description:

The attachment process between mothers and preterm infants on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is not well understood. This study will investigate the relationship between mother-to-infant attachment and two factors: amount of maternal infant visitation in the NICU and amount of maternal participation in six NICU interventions (kangaroo care, infant massage, infant-directed singing, NICU preparation, parent-to-parent support, services from support persons on NICU staff). Mother’s infant visitation in the NICU was chosen to be measured based on its connection to key aspects related to mother-to-infant attachment in the literature, like proximity. Mother’s participation in specific NICU interventions were chosen to be measured based on their associations in the literature to maternal sensitivity and/or maternal distress, two factors influential in the development of mother-to-infant attachment. Descriptive data will also be collected in order to improve our knowledge of the distribution/prevalence of mother’s participation in NICU interventions and infant visitation. In this study, mothers of preterm infants will complete an online survey, the NICU & Attachment Survey, composed of three instruments. The Demographic Questionnaire will collect descriptive data, the NICU Interventions Questionnaire (NIQ) will assess participants’ participation in NICU interventions and infant visitation, and the Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale (MPAS) will evaluate mother-to-infant attachment. Participants will be invited for participation through online forums related to parents, mothers, infants, prematurity, and NICUs. Findings from this research may result in more understanding and support for the attachment process in the NICU for preterm infants and mothers.

Study Purpose:

The attachment process between mothers and preterm infants on the NICU is not well understood. This study will examine the correlation between mother-to-infant attachment and two factors: amount of maternal infant visitation in the NICU and amount of maternal participation in six NICU interventions (kangaroo care, infant massage, infant-directed singing, NICU preparation, parent-to-parent support, and services from support persons on NICU staff). This study will also investigate the relationship between some demographic variables (age, education, and income) and the other factors examined in this study (mother-to-infant attachment, mother’s visitation of infant in the NICU, and mother’s participation in NICU interventions). Findings from this study may result in a better understanding of these relationships and provide focus for future research in this area of study.

Benefits of Research:

Those participating in this research may feel justified in knowing that this research aims to assist mothers and infants, similar to themselves and their infants, who had the unique experience of preterm birth requiring mother-infant separation for treatment in a NICU setting. Participants may feel comforted and warranted in knowing that their exploration of these topics may help researchers and mental health professionals better understand which NICU interventions are most strongly related to mother-to-infant attachment. The findings from this research study may result in a better understanding of the relationship between mother’s infant visitation in the NICU and participation in NCIU interventions and the mother-to-infant attachment that develops. The findings from this study may be used to educate professionals and parents about the importance of any of the practices found to relate to mother-to-infant attachment in the NICU for preterm infants.

Invitation to Participate:

NICU & Attachment Study for Mothers of Premature Infants

If you are the mother of a premature infant who was cared for in the NICU, I invite you to participate in my dissertation study exploring mothers’ activities in the NICU and the mother-infant attachment that develops.

Participation involves a 20 minute, anonymous, online survey for those meeting criterion.

Your exploration of these topics may help researchers and mental health professionals better understand which NICU interventions are most strongly related to mother-to-infant attachment and educate NICU professionals and parents about the importance of these practices.

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, 04 July 2012 20:42

Photo Competition Winners Announced

Congratulations to the preemiehelp photo competition winners!

Thanks too all the people that entered our Preemiehelp Photo competition.

The winners share in great prizes including, the preemiehelp ebook, “The Complete Guide to: Preemie Development.” and a Earlybirds Gift voucher (2 x $50) from Earlybirds

And the Winners are...

After much deliberation we can annouce the winners of the Preemiehelp 'preemie photo competition' .

Prizes are awarded for 3 categories

  • Life in the NICU
  • My Brave Preemie
  • Look at Me Now 

After an overwhelming responce to the competition we are happy to announce that..

In First Place

Collecting a prize of $50 Earlybirds Voucher ( and a full set of the Preemiehelp "The preemie guide to: Surviving the NICU" & " The preemie guide to: Preemie development" is:

Angela Perry - Life in the NICU

With her winning photo - 

Photo: 1st - Angela Perry (Life in the NICU)



In Second Place

Collecting a prize of $50 Earlybirds Voucher ( and the Preemiehelp ebook " The preemie guide to: Preemie development" is:

Andrea Creighton - My Brave Preemie

With her winning photo -

Photo: 2nd - Andrea Creighton (My brave preemie)



In Third Place

Collecting a full set of the Preemiehelp ebooks  "The preemie guide to: Surviving the NICU" & " The preemie guide to: Preemie development" is:

Ken & Lisa Young - Look at me now

With their winning photo -

Photo: 3rd - Ken & Lisa Young (Look at me now)



Published in Industry News
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Help us help you!

help us help you! is here to provide preemie information, community and solutions to the people that need it most... you!
Preemie Help is also looking to provide a resource for any professionals that have contact with preterm babies and children in order to help them best understand the challenges that face a preemie. Get in contact to help us impact preemies.

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



New Release - Preemie Development

All in one easy to read eguide

‘The complete preemie guide to: ‘Preemie development’ is the must have guide to the NICU for new preemie parents.

With an easy-to-read layout this comprehensive guide is over 130 pages of important information about the NICU and your preemie.

Using Adobe’s .pdf format makes the guide usable across a wide range of platforms from ipad to PC, smartphone to macbook.

Packed with extra features like progress charts, NICU checklists and plenty of others. ‘The preemie guide’ is a must for any new parents.