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, 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

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
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
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
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
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
Sunday, 01 June 2014 11:40

Stem Cells Could Help Preterm Infants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Industry News
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
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
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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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