National Issues on Preterm Birth

Fetuses Can Learn Nursery Rhymes At Only 34 Weeks' Gestation

New research suggests fetuses respond to the rhythm of a nursery rhyme by 34 weeks' gestation and can remember that rhyme until birth. In the study published recently in Infant Behavior and Development, researchers looked at pregnant women who recited a rhyme three times a day over the course of six weeks starting at the beginning of their third trimester, the University of Florida reported. "The mother's voice is the predominant source of sensory stimulation in the developing fetus," Nursing researcher said. "This could potentially affect how we approach the care and stimulation of the preterm infant."

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Could a Simple Urine Test Predict Risk of Preterm Birth?

Urine tests help to determine pregnancy. Now, a recent study published in BMC Medicine shows that a simple urine test could also help predict the risk of a preterm delivery or poor fetal development. Researchers from the Imperial College, London, found that certain biomarkers found in urine could help to screen for these conditions--providing hope for earlier treatments to future newborns. The Department of Surgery and Cancer at the university said they decided to get involved in this kind of research after examining the alarming rates of preterm births in many developed countries— nearly a 20 percent increase in recent years.

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Helping Premature Babies Breathe Easier- A little more caffeine goes a long way in improving blood oxygen levels

The caffeine in coffee that might help get you going in the morning can be lifesaving for premature babies. For more than a decade, neonatologists have routinely given premature newborns caffeine as a respiratory stimulant, helping their immature lungs and brains remember to breathe and reducing episodes of intermittent hypoxia (IH)—short, repetitive drops in blood oxygen levels.

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U.S. Preterm Birth Rate Drops To 15-Year Low

preemie baby

The rate of preterm births has declined to 11.5 percent, the lowest rate in 15 years, according to the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card.

The March of Dimes Report Card compares each state's preterm birth rate with the goal set by the March of Dimes of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. The report tracks states' progress towards lowering their preterm birth rates and assesses contributory factors.

According to the report, the U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2012, to 11.5 percent. Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Vermont met the 9.6 percent preterm birth rate goal and consequently earned an "A" on their Report Cards. As a whole, the United States earned a "C" on the Report Card, and 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, saw improvements in their preterm birth rates in 2012. The March of Dimes estimated that, since 2006, about 176,000 fewer babies have been born too soon because of improvement in the preterm birth rate, potentially saving about $9 billion in health and societal costs.

“Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation’s preterm birth rate from historic highs, the US still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country. We must continue to invest in preterm birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse.

To view the full 2013 Premature birth report cards, click here.

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Transitioning Newborns from NICU to Home

Transitioning Newborns from NICU to Home: A Resource Toolkit

A new toolkit from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides resources for hospitals looking to improve safety for newborns transitioning home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The toolkit provides guidance on the creation of a Health Coach Program, tools for coaches, and information for parents and families of newborns who have spent time in the NICU.

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Late Preterm Infants: Near Term But Still in a Critical Developmental Time Period

Late Preterm Infants: Near Term But Still in a Critical Developmental Time Period

This review focuses on the long-term neurodevelopmental and respiratory outcomes, with the main aim to suggest putative prenatal, neonatal, developmental, and environmental causes for these increased morbidities. It demonstrates parallelism in the trajectories of pulmonary and neurologic development and evolution as a model for fetal and neonatal maturation. These may suggest the critical developmental time period as the common pathway that leads to the outcomes. Disruption in this pathway with potential long–term consequences in both systems may occur if the intrauterine milieu is disturbed. Finally, the review addresses the practical implications on perinatal and neonatal care during infancy and childhood.

Read the review here.

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New Therapies Needed to Prevent Lung Injuries in Preemies

A neonatologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is the senior author of a large new study that found that current non-invasive techniques for respiratory support are less effective than widely assumed, in reducing the incidence of severe lung injury in very premature infants.

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JFK Baby Death in 1963 Sparked Medical Race to Save Preemies

JFK Baby Death in 1963 Sparked Medical Race to Save Preemies

The death of the presidential baby a half a century ago was a critical event, according to historians, one that sparked medical advances that did for the survival of preemies what Sputnik did for the space race.

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Resource Briefs on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Two new resource briefs direct readers to a selection of information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Resources for Professionals directs readers to a selection of resources about the ACA and its major provisions, policy developments, and implementation efforts. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Resources for Families provides information about the ACA and how it will affect families in each state. The resource briefs were developed by the University of Miami Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND), the University of South Florida College of Public Health MCH Leadership Training Program, the University of Florida Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC) Leadership Training Program, and the MCH Library at Georgetown University, all of which are funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).

Professionals | Families

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AAP Updates Screening Guide for Retinopathy of Prematurity

For the effective detection of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), at-risk infants should receive carefully timed retinal examinations (based on their gestational age) by an ophthalmologist experienced in the examination of preterm infants, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement published online Dec. 31 in Pediatrics.

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AWHONN's "Go the Full 40" Campaign

Don't Rush Me!

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is promoting its "Don't Rush Me... Go the Full 40" campaign, encouraging pregnant women who are healthy and well to wait for spontaneous labor.

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Resource for understanding connection between maternal stress and premature births

Maternal stress during and after pregnancy is associated with premature births, low-birthweight infants, infant mortality, and challenges in health, development, and learning in infancy and early childhood. A new tool from the Maternal and Child Health Library at Georgetown Library, "Maternal Distress in the Perinatal Period and Child Outcomes Knowledge Path," features current knowledge and resources on maternal stress during and after pregnancy. This is a helpful tool for health professionals, program administrators, policymakers, and researchers to learn more about maternal stress and child outcomes, to integrate what they know into their work to improve care, for program development, to locate training resources, and to answer specific questions. A separate brief lists resources for families.

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Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth

Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth provides the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth. The report shows the extent to which preterm birth is on the rise in most countries, and is now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia.

Addressing preterm birth is now an urgent priority for reaching Millennium Development Goal 4, which calls for the reduction of child deaths by two-thirds by 2015. This report shows that rapid change is possible and identifies priority actions for everyone. Born Too Soon proposes actions for policy, programs and research by all partners – from governments to NGOs to the business community – that if acted upon, will substantially reduce the toll of preterm birth, especially in high-burden countries.

To read the full article and download the report, click here.

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