Monday, 07 July 2014 11:49

Preterm Birth Breakthrough: Infections

Estimates of preterm birth in Australia suggest one in 12 or approximately 8% of Australian babies is born preterm. The incidence worldwide is even higher, approximately 10%, meaning around 15 million babies are born preterm annually. The estimated cost is very high and Australia spends approximately $500 million per year on their care, whilst the United States spends more than $17 billion.

One of the causes of preterm birth is intrauterine infection or inflammation caused by infection. Experts in the field hypothesise that vaginal microorganisms break the cervical barrier, colonise the fetal membranes, and infect the amniotic cavity. The expectant mother's auto-immune response consistenting of a vigorous inflammatory reaction results in preterm birth.

An incredible breakthrough achieved at the University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital, has described the ability of an antibiotic - solithromycin - to potentially cross the placenta and kill infections responsible for many preterm births. Professor Jeffrey Keelan estimated that up to 30% of preterm births could be prevented using this new antibiotic, solithromycin. Most of the benefits would be attributed to saving the very early prems.

The research behind this exciting breakthrough involved measurements in sheep and the crossover from sheep to human placentas is about 50% compared with only 2-4% for older antibiotics and it's 10 to 100 times stronger. Researchers report that the next step is to, confirm that in pregnant women, that the antibiotic crosses the placenta and destroys harmful bacteria. If research grants are successful clinical trials will take place between Western Australia and the United States.

This is a significant finding as currently used antibiotics are largely ineffective at destroying harmful bacteria or are unable to cross the placenta at high enough levels, thereby unable to prevent the preterm birth from occuring.

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, 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
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
Friday, 25 July 2014 11:21

Creative Preemies

Light ... by Stacie McClinchie



A song has been sung throughout our lands for many generations, the story where a young boy saved our world from a hell-like creature. It tells of the child’s sacrifice to save his land, to help the world prosper once more, for this beast took the greatest treasure we had. It kept it in a chest inside a volcano to the south of our border, and we knew it would take a special kind of person to bring it back.


For years, the peaceful lands of Garduin had been plagued by a menace in the form of a dragon. Even now no one knows where it came from, or why it suddenly attacked anyone who passed through the range near its new home. No one had been brave enough to defeat the beast, for its breath was like the acid rains in the north, its soul as twisted as the dreaded southern forests. Armoured plates covered the massive beast and no amount of metal could break through the tough scales.


This dragon had no name, but whoever could defeat it would have the key to our treasure. No one came to help us. So, a young boy of about nineteen winters took up the challenge. He, too, has no recorded name—but he is our saviour.


Even in his youth he knew facing the dragon in its home was foolish, so he lured it out with offerings of gold. No one thought the dragon would be curious enough to investigate the boy – it, like so many of us, didn’t think that it could be bested by someone who couldn’t even wield a sword properly. He had faith, as the songs say, and the dragon did come.


The battle of insults was long and soon the dragon grew bored—it didn’t expect the boy to have another offering though. We know now that milk is the only liquid that will put a dragon to sleep. Large barrels of it awaited the dragon as it found the place the boy had described once he told the beast of a greater offering of peace.


As the massive beast slumbered, the boy found the dragon’s domain and took the treasure for himself. He didn’t care that the dragon had woken a half-day later to find its treasure stolen—the beast was not as stupid as many had thought. Keeping it a secret no longer bothered the beast, for it had kept it for far too long and many did not appreciate what it has been guarding.


When the boy stopped at the largest and closest town, the one that he was said to have lived in, he gave up the fortune for a chance to live a normal life. He knew he would have to give it up if he was to be free to live his own life, and it did not pain him to do so. Before the ordeal with the dragon, he was merely a stable-hand, with no lands of his own and no hope for a promising future.


Afterwards, he lived a life of luxury.


The treasure that was given to the church that day cannot not be seen by mortal eyes – its existence all depends on secrecy. It is safe now, in the largest church in Garduin. A large orb of light sits inside its box, held aloft by twisting gold marble serpents with crystal eyes; the chest that the dragon had been safeguarding, and this light—this being—is what will secure the future of our world. It is our god’s gift to our people—and what we do with it is up to us. It will either start a war, or help us prosper.


Of course, this is just a legend. We tell them—those who come seeking the treasure taken from the dragon—that there isn’t really a reptilian egg waiting in the catacombs of Garduin. But there is. And only we know of its existence.


Published in Industry News
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 09:44

Preemies & Argan Oil

What’s so Good about Argan Oil?

Often called ‘liquid gold’, Argan oil is an organic product produced from an Argan nut coming from Argan tree, which only grows in Southwestern Morocco. Scientific analysis shows it is high in essential fatty acids Omega 6 and 9 to moisturise, maintain hydration and reduce inflammation. Argan oil is also very high in skin repairing antioxidants such as Vitamin E (twice the level of olive oil), carotenes, squalene and phenols. Its anti-oxidant effect makes argan oil the ideal anti-aging product. It restores elasticity and leaves skin feeling plumper and softer.

The active substances called triterpenoids that occur in Argan Oil offer amazing skin protection benefits. These include tissue healing (scars), anti-inflammatory, sun-protective and disinfectant properties.

The oil contains 80% unsaturated fatty acids and is more resistant to oxidation than olive oil. Argan oil also contains 0.8% unsaponifiables (a large group of compounds also known as plant sterols or sterolins). Sterolins improve skin metabolism, reduce inflammation and promote excellent moisture retention. The antioxidants in Argan Oil are generally beneficial for healing skin which is irritated, cracked, damaged, or even burned. It is best used as a preventative for dry or sore skin, but it can also be used to speed up healing. Its properties include reducing inflammation, soothing pain, and increasing healing rate. It absorbs easily and is non-greasy and non-irritating, which makes it a great natural moisturiser.

Because preemies are often so fragile whilst in the NICU our products focus on skincare after preemie baby is medically stable. After preterm babies leave the NICU their skin is often still very dry and flaky and requires ongoing attention to keep it hydrated, soothed, and protected. Working with experts in the area of skincare, we have been able to formulate a range of products that target some specific needs of preemies. Our products are perfect for when baby comes home.

The entire Gentl skincare range for preemies and preemie parents only includes natural substances such as organic argan oil and/or ingredients that have been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel and found to be safe for cosmetic use.

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
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 20:06

Pacemaker to Stop Premature Birth

The latest in scientific research sees a "pacemaker" being developed to help prevent premature birth!

The "pacemaker" is composed of electrodes which deliver mild bursts of electricity to stop muscles in the womb contracting - it has recently just completed a clinical trial.

The rates of premature birth have been increasing putting more babies at risk for short and long term health difficulties so more and more research efforts are being put behind ways to help prevent preterm birth.

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

The Victorian Brain Infants Studies (VIBeS) began a very important research project in January 2005, which aimed to establish if receiving developmental care at home was more beneficial than the current standard care, the study is known as the VIBeS Plus program.

There are around 3,000 very low birth weight (less than 1500 grams) or very preterm infants (less than 30 weeks gestational age) born each year in Australia. Survival rates for these very preterm infants have improved dramatically in the last few decades to be greater than 85%, however a significant proportion of children experience movement, behavioural or social problems which have life-long consequences. Early intervention programs, such as the VIBeS Plus program may reduce these risks. To date, the success of these programs has not been fully established.

The original VIBeS Plus study was a randomised control trial of a preventative care intervention. There were 120 families who participated and were randomised to either the “intervention group” or “control group”. The intervention designed by the Victorian Infant Brain Studies (VIBeS) team, consisted of 9 visits over the first year of life, conducted by 2 teams comprising a psychologist and a physiotherapist who were specially trained to deliver the intervention program. The intervention aimed to educate the primary caregivers about infant self-regulation and techniques for improving postural stability, coordination, and strength and to support the parents’ mental health and parent infant relationship throughout the first year. Each session lasted ~1.5 to 2.0 hours and was conducted in the family home, with a few exceptions in which the infants were seen in the hospital. Both groups were offered an MRI scan of their infant's brain at term corrected age.

Many of the neurobehavioral impairments described in preterm children persist into adolescence and adulthood. Further, caregivers of very preterm survivors experience high rates of mental health problems. Studies examining the effectiveness of early developmental intervention programs designed to reduce the burden of developmental problems report short-term benefits for infants and their caregivers.

VIBeS Plus previously demonstrated that at 2 years the early preventive care program improved preterm infants’ behavioural outcomes and reduced primary caregivers’ anxiety and depression. The follow-up study conducted at age 4 years showed that home-based preventive care over the first year had selective long-term benefits. There were meaningful differences in the thinking and learning, language and motor scores between treatment groups. Also, children in the intervention group showed less attention problems, such as ADHD, and behavior difficulties as well as increased competence compared with the controls.

Given the important role of parenting on child development, it is possible that the full benefits of this preventive care program will not be observed until later in development. Thus it is vital to determine whether early preventative care programs have long-term benefits beyond early development and preschool years. VIBeS Plus are currently following up this group of preterm children at school-age. Follow-up at school age is ideal for assessing the usefulness of this program, as this is when brain development and social maturation are relatively stable, and when the social demands of the environment (primary school) are also relatively consistent.

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

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.


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