Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
A review of research on preterm babies reveals that super-early preemies (those born between the 22 and 25 weeks gestation) face significant health risks years later. Compared with full-term babies, these preemies had increased risk of neurological problems at 4 to 8 years of age. Care of premature infants continues to improve, but this review points to the importance of trying to keep babies in the womb as long as possible, TIME.com reports.
More from TIME.com:
It’s not the first hint that preemies are at higher risk of health issues for being born before their development was completed. Some recent studies showed, for example, that babies who were born earlier had poorer test scores in reading and math compared with those born full term. A study published in 2011 that analyzed the long-term effects of premature birth on cognitive abilities such as memory and attention span in early adulthood revealed that people who were born extremely premature performed worse on executive function tests and took longer to complete higher-order intellectual tasks. As adults, these individuals also scored an average of 8.4 points lower on IQ assessments compared with people who were born at full term.
The fact that the effects of premature birth last into adulthood is concerning, since they are not only at a disadvantage in some cognitive functions, they even have a reportedly higher risk of death in early adulthood as well. Advancements in care of premature babies have undoubtedly improved, but lessening their health risks is still a task at hand. In 2012, a team of researchers from the University College London Institute for Women’s Health reported that death rates and health problems among extremely preterm babies has remained unchanged for decades.
While the parents of preemies may find this news less-than-reassuring, this research can help children by giving “parents and clinicians a heads-up for what to look out for during development,” TIME.com says.
Image: Premature baby’s foot, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
NYU Langone Medical Center in Lower Manhattan, out of power from both main sources and backup generators and facing 10-12 feet of water in the wake of the superstorm Sandy, evacuated all patients yesterday and this morning, including its newborns and ill babies. Hospital staff carried the young patients down 9 flights of stairs to evacuate them safely from the building, as CNN.com reports:
The evacuation was moving more slowly than expected, according to hospital spokeswoman Lisa Grenier. About 40 patients remained to be evacuated at 9 a.m. Tuesday, she said. Brotman said earlier that he anticipated the evacuation would last until around 6:30 a.m.
The dawn of a new day, however, brought some help. “At least there’s daylight coming in through the windows,” Grenier said.
Four of the newborns were on respirators that were breathing for them, and when the power went out, each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby’s lungs.
“This is a labor-intensive, extremely difficult process,” Brotman said.
Image: Emergency stairs, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
A global study of premature births has found that the U.S. ranks similarly to developing countries when it comes to women who give birth to premature babies. According to The New York Times, American hospitals do very well at protecting the health of both the mothers and babies, but could do far better in managing risk factors for preterm labor.
The Times reports on the possible causes for the findings:
That stems from the unique American combination of many pregnant teenagers and many women older than 35 who are giving birth, sometimes to twins or triplets implanted after in vitro fertilization, the authors said. Twins and triplets are often deliberately delivered early by Caesarean section to avoid the unpredictable risks of vaginally delivering multiple full-term babies.
Also, many American women of childbearing age have other risk factors for premature birth, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking habits. And the many women who lack health insurance often do not see doctors early in their pregnancies, when problems like high blood pressure or genital infections can be headed off.
Image: Planet Earth, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, April 13th, 2012
The story of a baby in Argentina who was discovered to be alive after being taken to the hospital morgue and given up for dead has the world holding its breath as the girl, born at only 26 weeks gestational age, struggles with health complications typical of babies who are born severely premature.
USA Today reports:
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Tiny Luz Milagros, or “Miracle Light,” is suffering from sepsis and convulsions along with signs of neurological damage, said Dr. Diana Vesco, neonatology chief at the Perrando hospital in Resistencia in northern Chaco province. She said the baby is on a ventilator and being treated with antibiotics.
Her mother, Analia Bouter, said she got a supportive call from President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday asking to see the baby once she’s out of intensive care.
That could be a while.
Luz Milagros faces a “risk of death commonly associated with her weight and gestational age at birth,” said Vesco.
The case became public Tuesday when Chaco’s deputy health minister, Rafael Sabatinelli, announced that five medical professionals had been suspended pending an official investigation of what happened.
Friday, March 16th, 2012
An innovative research study is under way at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to test whether the sounds of a mother’s heartbeat and voice can help premature infants better grow and thrive while they remain in hospital care. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, involved a professional recording studio at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to allow neuroscientist Amir Lahav–who himself became the parent of premature twins five years ago–to measure whether the soothing sounds of their mothers can help premature babies develop.
Time magazine has a full report:
“The majority of babies born before 32 weeks’ gestation, even without a diagnosed brain injury, are likely to have learning, cognitive, social or sensory problems down the road,” says Lahav, who is now a pediatric researcher specializing in neonatal medicine and director of the Neonatal Research Lab at Brigham and Women’s. “That tells us that something we do is still not perfect.”
Could the lack of exposure to maternal sounds at a critical time period account at least in part for subsequent problems with language, attention deficit, learning disabilities, even autism? Lahav doesn’t think it’s far-fetched. “If a baby is in an isolated environment with only the sounds of machines and noise, it could possibly translate into problems with social behavior,” he says.
In the small study, Lahav and colleagues played recordings of moms who spoke, read or sang, to a group of 14 babies born between 26 to 32 weeks, for 45 minutes, four times a day. They found a significant reduction in problems such as apnea, in which breathing stops occasionally for more than 20 seconds, and bradycardia, in which the heart beat slows down significantly, when babies listened to their personalized MSS, or maternal sound stimulation. Think of it like iTunes for babies.
All babies had fewer adverse episodes when exposed to maternal sounds, but the measurement was only statistically significant in babies 33 weeks or older, according to the study. That might be because by 32 weeks, the auditory brain system is more developed, and the babies are able to process the sounds better. In general, Lahav hypothesizes, babies who hear their mothers may have reduced cortisol levels, which correlate with less stress.
Image: Recording studio, via Shutterstock.
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