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
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 17:23

MRI, Extremely Preterm Birth & IQ

An Australia research group - Victorian Infant Collaborative Study - based in Melbourne investigates both short- and long-term outcomes associated with preterm birth. One of their studies has followed a large cohort, which includes participants from the 4 major children's hospitals in Victoria, 298 preterm survivors and 262 normal birth weight controls. These cohorts have had extensive evaluations of their growth and developments at 2, 5, and 8 years of age and were recently seen for a major follow-up including an extensive cognitive and visual assessment at age 8 years. In addition some 148 extremely preterm survivors and 132 term born controls received a magnetic resonance imaging scan of their brain in order to compare brain volumes from multiple brain tissues and structures as well as to explore the relationships of brain tissue volumes with IQ and basic educational skills.

IQ was assessed using the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) and Educational skills were assessed using the Wide Range Achievement Test(WRAT-4).

This research represents the largest regional neuroimaging cohort of adolescents born in the 1990s, which is very important as this cohort represents a group that received "new" medical interventions such as surfactant therapy and antenatal corticosteroids which had greater success in improving survival rates of the smallest and most preterm infants. The long-term outcomes of these survivors have not been well documented until this unique study.

The researchers found that extremely preterm adolescents had smaller brain volumes, lower IQs and poorer educational performance than babies born at term. They also reported that brain volumes of multiple tissues and structures are related to IQ and educational outcomes and concluded that smaller total brain tissue volume is an important contributor to the cognitive and educational underperformance of adolescents born extremely preterm.

The authors of this study suggested that examining brain volume is one of many ways to understand the neurological changes associated with preterm birth and fruther investigations might be able to determine the correlation between other structural and functional information obtained from advanced MRI, which might also provide a more global understanding of changes related to extreme prematurity in adolescence

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 17:22

Fundraiser: Walk for Prems

Preterm birth is a major public health concern that is often overshadowed in the media and from funding bodies for more "glamorous" and "dramatic" causes. Whilst we don't protest the money donated to such causes we are also accutely aware, that given the proportion of preterm births globally, that money commited to preventing, supporting, and optimizing preemie outcomes is well below what one might expect given the enormity of associated costs. There are many wonderful groups that work tirelessly to bridge this gap. Preemie help is very happy to help spread the word for one such group/event in Australia. See below a message from Life's Little Treasures and for details of their Walk for Prems event.

Each year thousands of babies are born premature or sick, and a whole family begins the journey through neonatal intensive care units and special care nurseries.

On the 6th of November 2011, Life's Little Treasures Foundation are holding their, major fundraising and community event Walk for Prems at locations throughout the country so that families, friends and supporters can come together to celebrate the lives of these special babies and raise awareness and funds.

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:26

NICU Stress

As parents of premature babies well know, their tiny immature baby is likely to spend at least some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU is where premature babies will receive specialized medical care allowing time for immature organs to develop sufficiently.

Although there are a number of factors that are associated with poorer developmental outcomes in very premature babies little is understood about the exposure to stress in the neonatal intensive care unit. A new study has focussed on this topic by examining neonatal infant stress and its effect on brain development.

This study involved 44 premature babies born less than 30 weeks gestation and trained nurses recorded procedures and cares. Stress was measured using a tool called the Neonatal Infant Stressor Scale (NISS), which consists of 36 interventions that contribute to infant stress. These premature babies then undertook a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate the relationship between brain structure and function and infant exposure to stress.

The findings of this study suggest that for premature babies exposure to stressors in the neonatal intensive care unit is associated with reduced brain size. It is not clear what the long-term consequences are and the authors suggest that further research of stress exposure on the premature baby brain is needed to improve outcomes for premature babies.

Published in Industry News
Friday, 03 June 2011 13:40

Flu Shot and Preterm Birth

Having a flu shot may reduce the risk of having a preterm birth. A new study in the US reported that women who received the vaccine and gave birth during the flu season were 40% less likely to have a baby born prematurely.

 

Published in Industry News
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 17:36

World Preemie Day Competition

Calling all budding writers! Join in the fun of World Prematurity Month by entering the preemiehelp.com best short story or poem competition and you’ll have the chance to win great prizes including, the preemiehelp.com ebook, “The Preemie Guide to: Surviving the NICU.” and a $100 Earlybirds Gift voucher from www.earlybirdsbabywear.com

In 500 words maximum engage our imagination by sharing your experience in the NICU. You have a unique perspective as a mother, father, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, or friend...?

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

Best entries will appear on preemiehelp.com and competition winners will be announced on the 17th November.

Published in Industry News
Friday, 02 December 2011 10:27

Breastfeeding & Pain in Preemies

Not only is pain in preemie babies upsetting annd stressful for parents, if pain is not managed well it can have serious negative consequences, both short- and long-term. It can affect preemie babies' ongoing sensitivity to pain, stress arousal systems, and brain development. In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) pain associated with procedures such as pricking for blood tests are managed with interventions such as skin-to-skin care, swaddling, nesting, pacifiers, nonnutritive sucking, and sweet tastes. Breastfeeding, a natural, simple alternative, offers simultaneously the pain-reducing components of familiar odor, maternal skin-to-skin contact, sucking, and the ingestion of breast milk. In babies who are born full term, it has been reported that breastfeeding during painful procedures can reduce the pain response by 80 to 90% without producing any negative side effects. This approach had not been evaluated in preemie babies, in part due to a concern preemie babies may associate breastfeeding with pain, which could affect their ability to feed effectively and gain weight, as well impact mother-baby bonding.

Recently, a randomized control trial conducted by investigators from the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital and The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, had their results of a study investiagting this very issue in PAIN (which is a scientific journal).

This research study looked at whether breastfeeding during the painful procedure would have a negative impact on the development of breastfeeding skills, and whether preemie babies who had more mature breastfeeding behaviors would have lower pain scores and heart rates during blood collection than less experienced feeders.

The results from the study showed that for the preemie group as a whole, breastfeeding did not reduce either behavioral or physiological pain during blood collection. But importantly, there were negative affects on breastfeeding skill development either. Preemie babies who were more advanced in their ability to feed did have significantly lower behavioral pain scores.

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
Friday, 30 March 2012 14:33

Grief – Quick Recovery Key

Becoming a parent of a preemie can result in, for good reason, feelings of grief and high levels of distress, which is similar to that of parents who have a child with a chronic illness (e.g. epilepsy or cerebral palsy). According to new research, the faster a mother of a preemie can overcome the feelings of grief they are experiencing the better the chances of developing secure attachment between baby and mother.

Experiencing a preterm birth has been described as an “emotional crisis” that is characterized by feelings of loss and grief, which can continue for months even after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Mother’s of preemies must adapt her expectations and hopes for her baby in difficult and uncertain situations, and must mourn the loss of her hoped-for baby, while also trying to embrace the baby she has.

A history of unresolved grief experienced by mothers about their baby’s diagnosis has been associated with insecure infant-mother attachment. Most of this research has been carried out on chronic medical conditions or disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. Persistent feelings of grief can affect a parent’s capacity to respond sensitively and contingently to baby’s cues. According to attachment theory a parent’s interactive behaviour influences later emotional development in the child. For example, contingently responsive and sensitive parenting contributes to secure attachment and therefore better social and emotional development. On the other hand, interactions lacking sensitivity and responsiveness are associated with insecure attachment.

A recent study undertaken by Prachi Shah M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, aimed to investigate the association between mothers’ unresolved grief regarding their preterm birth and infant-mother attachment security. The study involved 74 preemies (i.e. born less than 36 weeks gestation) and their mothers and the analysis included assessment of neonatal and socioeconomic risk at NICU discharge, maternal depression, Reaction to Preterm Birth Interview findings, and quality of parenting at 9 months postterm, and infant-mother attachment at postterm age of 16 months.

Study conclusion –The study found that unresolved grief related to a preterm birth is associated with the development of insecure infant-mother attachment. Importantly, mothers with resolved grief after preterm birth are 3 times more likely to have secure infant-attachment compared with preterm mothers with unresolved grief. Mothers who demonstrated more positive interactions with their infants were also more likely to have securely attached infants. There researchers suggested that successfully getting over grief may require the mother to redirect her expectations and hopes for her child during uncertain circumstances, and mourn the “hoped-for child” as she still embraces the child she has.

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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New Release - Preemie Development

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

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


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