STANFORD, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Three hundred and eighty-thousand babies are born premature each year. The smallest baby ever born came into the world at 23 weeks and three days and weighed the same as a small apple. She is part of a group of survivors called micro preemies. Surviving birth and the weeks after is challenging. Now, new research that may help these preemies live long and healthy lives.
Little Haven was born 100 days early— weighing just 410 grams.
“It’s about the size of a coke can,” illustrated Haven’s mother, Amanda Smith.
Babies born so early are monitored for organ damage, brain damage, and developmental delays. And researchers are now learning that what happened at birth could cause problems later on. Irika and her twin brother Irith were born three months early and weighed just one pound 14 ounces.
“Well, I’m 30 seconds older than he is, which I always remind him of,” Irika Katiyar shared.
Five days after birth, both babies needed heart surgery, battled infections, and suffered setbacks.
“They were just so tiny, and Irith was born sick,” recalled Irika and Irith’s Mother, Barkha Katiyar.
“We stayed in the hospital for about three and a half months,” Irika shared.
“I didn’t know if we stood a chance, if the kids would survive or not,” Barkha expressed.
Now 19 years later, Irika and Irith are happy and healthy—but they are still reminded daily of their first few months of life.
“I only have one vocal cord and the other one’s paralyzed,” Irika described.
New research shows micro preemies have an increased risk for psychiatric disorders later in life, breathing problems, and heart disease. Young adults who were born at 28 weeks or less are at nearly three times the risk of having high blood pressure. All problems that can’t be seen when the babies are born. But researchers are hoping to avoid the NICU altogether by developing a blood test to determine risk.
“What the blood test currently does is it tells you: yes, a woman will deliver preterm within two months of when she took the blood test. And what we hope is that it will get paired with a treatment and then you can prevent the preterm birth from happening,” explained Mira Moufarrej, a bioengineering graduate student at Stanford University.
Treatments that could delay birth and change a child’s life forever.
These extreme preemie babies are part of a group called against-the-odds babies which, by the way, due to the popularity of IVF is now larger than at any time in history. Because of that, researchers are just now beginning to understand what survivors of extreme prematurity may face as they age.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: EXTREME PREEMIES GROW UP: AGAINST THE ODDS
REPORT: MB #4864
BACKGROUND: Premature birth, babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and its complications are the number one cause of death of newborns in the United States. Babies who survive premature birth can have long-term health problem such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss. In the United States alone, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year with the birth rate for preterm deliveries being 9.8 percent. The current U.S. preterm birth rate is among the highest.
DIAGNOSING: Those experiencing regular uterine contractions and have had the cervix begin to soften, thin and dilate before 37 weeks of pregnancy, will more than likely be diagnosed with preterm labor. Tests and procedures to diagnose preterm labor include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, uterine monitoring, and lab tests. Those that have a history of premature birth may be recommended by their health care provider to receive shots of a form of the hormone progesterone called hydroxyprogesterone caproate to take starting the second trimester and continuing until week 37 of pregnancy. Health care providers might also offer progesterone, which is inserted in the vagina, as a preventive measure against preterm birth. Those with a history of preterm labor or premature birth can be at risk of a preterm labor.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: There is currently a blood test for pregnant women that can detect with 75-80 percent accuracy whether their pregnancies will end in premature birth. The blood test can also be used to estimate the mother’s due date as reliably and less expensively than an ultrasound. The use of the blood test could help reduce problems related to premature birth, which impacts 15 million infants worldwide each year. The test can be used to study and analyze the maternal, placental and fetal genes by assessing maternal blood levels of cell-free RNA. By studying these tiny bits of the messenger molecule that carry the body’s genetic instructions to its protein-making factories, doctors can identify which genes give off reliable signals about gestational age and prematurity risk.
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