Entries in Premature Birth (17)


Study Says Public Smoking Bans Help Lower Rate of Premature Births

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A study published in the British Medical Journal found that the frequency of premature births dropped in Belgium as the result of a public smoking ban.

The ban was rolled out in three stages, and after each phase, the rate of premature births dropped. The ban's first phase prohibited smoking in public places and workplaces and was instituted in 2006. Restaurants banned smoking in 2007, and bars serving food followed suit in 2010.

The study, conducted at Hasselt University in Belgium, was based on 600,000 births between 2002 and 2011 and defined premature birth as birth before 37 weeks. Researchers found that the rate of premature births fell after each phase of the ban.

The most notable drops were after the second and third stages, which saw the premature birth rate fall by about 3 percent each time.

A Scottish study in 2012 found a similar pattern, strengthening the theory that public smoking bans help to cut the number of children born prematurely. Separate studies have concluded that secondhand smoke has an impact on pre-term birth rate.

The study supports the belief that public smoking bans may help take some of the risk out of pregnancy.

Public smoking has been banned in 28 states as well as a number of other cities and counties.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Preterm Birth Rate in US Down to Lowest in a Decade

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Preterm births in the U.S. dropped for a fifth consecutive year in 2011, marking the lowest rate in a decade, according to the March of Dimes.

The non-profit organization's annual Premature Birth Report Card found that the preterm birth rate went down to 11.7 percent last year, down from its peak in 2006 of 12.8 percent.

"In 2010, about 64,000 fewer babies were born preterm than in 2006, which was the peak year for pre-term births.  So this is decreasing health care and social costs but most importantly, it's giving 64,000 babies a better start," March of Dimes Medical Director Dr. Ed McCabe told ABC News Radio.

The report reflects that more expectant mothers are taking better care of themselves with improved diets and visits to doctors, he said.

“A woman needs to get a pre-conception checkup before getting pregnant.  She needs to go to all of her pre-natal care appointments even when she's feeling fine,” Dr. McCabe advised.

Taking these steps to lower premature births will also result in lower health care costs.

“It's estimated that the improvement in preterm birth rate represents a potential savings of about $3 billion -- billion with a 'b' -- in health care and economic costs to society,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Premature Birth Endangers 15M Babies Worldwide

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Premature birth and its accompanying health dangers kill 1.1 million babies worldwide each year, making it the second-leading cause of death for children under age 5, according to a new global report.

The report, called “Born Too Soon,” is the first ever to focus on the problems facing babies born prematurely, defined as birth before 37 weeks in the womb.

Nearly 15 million babies face the health risks of pre-term birth each year, accounting for about 1 in 10 live births around the world, in countries rich and poor. According to the report, the U.S. ranks sixth on the list of 184 countries with the highest rates of pre-term births, far higher than other high-income countries.

But where a baby is born makes all the difference when it comes to surviving after a premature birth, said Dr. Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report and the Director of Global Evidence and Policy at Saving Newborns Lives at Save the Children.

“A baby born very pre-term, less than 28 weeks, who is born in America has a more than 90 percent chance of survival. And if that same baby was born in Africa where I live and work and spent most of my life, that baby would have less than 10 percent chance of survival,” Lawn told ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser.

Two-thirds of pre-term births occur in countries across Africa and southern Asia, where early births usually are the result of high rates of adolescent pregnancies and infections, such as malaria and HIV. In the U.S., older women who give birth, twins and triplets conceived using fertility treatments and high rates of C-section deliveries and induced labors account for the nearly 500,000 premature births annually.

Pre-term births are also more common for African-American than for white babies.

Lawn said even if children are born prematurely, they don’t have to die. She and her colleagues at Save the Children have a goal of saving the lives of 1 million babies by 2025.

Simple low-cost solutions, such as keeping babies warm through skin-to-skin contact of Kangaroo Mother Care, could save 400,000 babies, Lawn estimates. Giving mothers prenatal steroids and emphasizing breastfeeding can save thousands more.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


One of the Nation's Tiniest Babies Goes Home

Christina House-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The California premature infant described as the tiniest "miracle baby" is finally home after doctors said she defied all odds.

Melinda Star Guido was born a tiny preemie of 24 weeks, weighing just 9.5 ounces and described as being smaller than the size of a hand in August.

With skin so thin it could not protect her from infection; Melinda wasn't expected to live more than a few days.

After more than 16 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, she now weighs 4.5 pounds.

On Friday, Melinda was released from the hospital to go home with her proud parents.

"I feel great to take her home after four and a half months," said mother Haydee Ibarra. "I'm just grateful to finally spend the whole night with her. It's great. There are no words to say."

Melinda was treated soon after she was born for an eye disorder common to preemies, and had surgery to close an artery.

Now, the third smallest baby to ever survive, her doctors are calling her recovery and development a miracle.

"The good news is the baby is doing what the baby is supposed to do: feed, look around, sleep, and gain weight," said Dr. Rangasamy Ramanathan, chief of neonatology at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

Around 7,500 babies are born in the U. S. each year weighing less than a pound. Of those, only about 10 percent survive.

"I just feel blessed. I just feel great that she's here with us," Ibarra said.

To her parents, Melinda may feel like a five month old baby, but to her doctors, she is only a month old.

Doctors say the next six years of her life are crucial, but now, all of those precious years can be spent at home with her loving family.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Palm-Sized Baby Defies Odds

File photo. (Photodisc/Thinkstock)(LOS ANGELES) -- Melinda Star Guido was supposed to be born Thursday. Instead, she came into the world 16 weeks early, one of the smallest premature babies ever to beat overwhelming odds and survive.

The tiny fighter, only 9.5 ounces and the size of her doctor's hand at birth, now weighs 4 pounds. Doctors gave her no more than a 2 percent chance of survival, but she is thriving and could go home on New Year's Day.

"For babies like Melinda, the fact she survived and is likely to go home is a tremendous accomplishment for the doctors and nurses who cared for her and for her family," said Dr. Sessions Cole, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in St. Louis and director of the Division of Newborn Medicine.

But Cole said there is a long road ahead for babies born extremely prematurely, and problems can show up for several years after the preemies leave the hospital.

"The good news is that for babies who survive, one-quarter to one-third will emerge at 3 to 5 years of age as doing well," Cole said.

Those lucky ones will show brain development close to normal. Another third will have mild disabilities, like clumsiness or difficulty in saying words, Cole said. The remaining third will have "significant brain development issues" and could suffer seizures or be blind, deaf or disabled by cerebral palsy.

Baby girls tend to do better, for reasons that medical science doesn't really understand, he said.

The Supreme Court generally considers a fetus viable at 24 weeks, but Cole said gestational age is not an exact science. In general, he said, many babies born at 27 to 28 weeks do well, and the vast majority of those born at 30 to 32 weeks thrive.

Baby Melinda is among those 1 percent to 1.5 percent of babies in the very highest-risk category.

After Melinda's delivery by C-section, she began her life in an incubator at the neonatal intensive care unit at USC Medical Centre, receiving food through a tube and breathing with the aid of a machine.

Now, Melinda can breathe on her own, and her mom can lift her out of the incubator and cuddle her. Melinda has overcome an eye disorder and survived surgery to close an artery.

Her parents hoped to have her home for Christmas, but she's not ready yet: She still has to get stronger and learn to bottle-feed. If all goes well, Melinda could join three other babies born around the world this year weighing less than a pound who made it out of the hospital to start growing up with their families.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Follow-Up Study Finds World's Smallest Surviving Newborns Doing Fine

Madeline Mann. Loyola University Medical Center(MAYWOOD, Ill.) -- Two women who hold records for being the smallest surviving newborns are now doing fine and have developed normally, despite being born months premature and weighing about as much as a smart phone after birth, according to doctors where both babies were born.

Madeline Mann is now 20 and a college student. When she was born in 1989, at nearly 27 weeks, she was the world's smallest surviving infant at 9.9 oz.  In 2004, Rumaisa Rahman, a twin, weighed just 9.2 oz when she was born at nearly 26 weeks and became the world's smallest surviving newborn.  She still holds that record today.

In a follow-up study published in the journal Pediatrics, doctors at Loyola University Medical Center described the girls' progress since their birth.  Both Madeline and Rumaisa developed normal motor and speech abilities and so far, have no chronic health problems.  They are also both much smaller than peers their age.

In addition to being born extremely early, both babies were very low birth weight for their gestational ages.  Normally, an 18-week-old fetus is around the weight they were when they were born.  Although they are doing well, lead author Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, professor of neonatal-perinatal medicine at Loyola University Medical Center, stressed that despite their successes, Madeline and Rumaisa are very atypical of babies born that early and at weights that low.

"The normal outcomes that are somewhat of a miracle," said Muraskas. "We don't want the public to look at these two and have false expectations about outcomes."

"The vast majority of extremely pre-term infants who are also growth-restricted as these two were don't survive and those that do have major handicaps as well as ongoing health issues," said Dr. Deborah Campbell, director of neonatology at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y.

Dominic Francis, a 2-year-old from Cincinnati, is living with some of these health issues.  Though he wasn't born as early as Madeline or Rumaisa, he was only 29 weeks old and weighed a little more than two pounds at birth.

He developed cerebral palsy after he was born, and now has trouble walking and communicating.

While she's happy to hear about rare cases like Madeline and Rumaisa, Dominic's mother, Laura, also wants people to know they are the exception.

"The more common stories are the kids like my son who now face a lifetime of health and medical issues.  I understand why the happy story gets the press, but the reality is that families of preemies have an uphill battle starting at birth," she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Preterm Birth Rate Falls for Fourth Straight Year

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal health officials on Thursday reported a decline in the preterm birth rate to just fewer than 12 percent of all births.

Premature births fell six percent from 2009 to 2010. The rate has now fallen four years in a row.

“Preterm birth is such an important risk factor and is associated with infant mortality, so declines in preterm birth are really very good news,” said the CDC's Stephanie Ventura.

“Forty-four states and D.C. have seen declines since 2006 in preterm births,” Ventura said. “So whatever the factors are, it's widespread -- broad-based.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Breast Milk Banks Struggling to Meet Demand

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The rising demand for human breast milk in neonatal intensive care units has prompted an impassioned plea from America's milk banks.

Donated milk, dubbed "liquid gold," can save the lives of preterm babies whose moms can't produce milk themselves.  But the 1.8 million ounces of milk distributed by non-profit milk banks across the country covers less than a quarter of the eight million ounces needed, according to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

"We need every healthy, breast-feeding mom to say, 'I want to be a donor," said Kim Updegrove, the association's president-elect.  "Then we'd have enough milk for every preterm baby. Even a small amount is lifesaving."

Human breast milk is rich in nutrients that help tiny preemies grow and antibodies that guard them against infections, which is why more NICU doctors are prescribing it.  Now three-quarters of milk bank orders come from hospitals -- up from 60 percent just last year.

But beyond those who need donor breast milk, few moms know about milk banks.  All prospective donors have to do is fill out paperwork online and provide a blood sample at a local lab.  The milk banks cover the cost of the screening process and, if approved, the cost of shipping and pasteurizing the milk.

"There's no cost to the donor," said Pauline Sakamoto, executive director of Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif., and past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.  But the recipient absorbs the cost, paying as much as $6 per ounce.

Today, there are 10 milk banks in the U.S., down from 30 in the pre-HIV 1980s.

For non-profit milk banks, the rising demand is bittersweet. On one hand, it reflects the growing appreciation for human breast milk's benefits.  But it also means the service is getting more expensive.  Instead of shipping hospitals a month's supply, the banks are forced to send milk as it become available, increasing shipping costs.

The increased price could mean more moms sharing online -- a practice discouraged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of the risk of disease.  While the 10 milk banks under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America umbrella have strict standards for donor screening and pasteurization, informal milk sharing sites do not.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air Pollution Tied to Premature Births, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Pregnant women who live in areas with high levels of air pollution caused by heavy traffic could be at increased risk for premature births, according to a new study.

Researchers led by Michelle Wilhelm, an assistant professor in residence at the UCLA School of Public Health, found that Southern California women exposed to traffic-related air pollution had a 30 percent higher risk of pre-term birth.

Wilhelm and her colleagues looked at 100,000 births that occurred in Los Angeles County within five miles of stations used by the state to monitor air quality.

Using birth records and specific exposure information provided by the state, they determined that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- chemicals found in soot -- were associated with the highest risk of premature births.  They found that traffic was the biggest source of PAHs.

"Even at air pollution levels in Los Angeles which are much lower than in previous decades, we still see adverse birth outcomes that we attribute to traffic-related air toxics," said Dr. Beate Ritz, a co-author and professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health.

"This research fits with a whole body of literature over the past decade that show problems between a woman's exposure to pollution and pregnancy and subsequent health of the baby," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  Landrigan was not involved in the California research.

The study also found that other chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate and benzene, were also associated with an increased risk of premature birth, but to a lesser extent.

Babies and children exposed to certain pollutants are known to be more susceptible to health problems.

"It's known that when pollutants get into pregnant women and their baby, they disrupt the metabolism of the baby," said Landrigan. "Infants exposed to air pollution are at higher risk for asthma, respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."

The authors said other factors could be contributing to the risk of premature births in these women.  The women living in the affected areas were more likely to be Hispanic, born outside the U.S., lower-income and have government health insurance.  Because they used birth data, the researchers were unable to control for the effects of smoking as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Preemie Parents More Likely to Feel Depressed

Photodisc/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- Even after their babies make it home from the hospital, many parents of premature newborns are far from relaxed.

"These parents lose any sense of a normal pregnancy," said Discenza, co-author of The Preemie Parent's Survival Guide to the NICU. "They likely didn't have a baby shower, and that normal exciting baby feeling is tossed out the window and replaced with doctors appointments, home nurse visits, medical equipment going off, and wondering whether they should call 911."

"There's a whole spectrum of inappropriate comments while a preemie is in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and when the baby is finally out," said Discenza.

A new report from, an online patient community website, found that those insensitive or ignorant comments have a very real impact on the parents of premature infants. Out of 630 preemie parents who responded to an online survey, more than half said they had experienced insensitive comments about their baby, contributing to feelings of stress and isolation.

"We really felt like this is one of those things that you don't know about it until you're involved in it in a very personal way," said Brian Loew, CEO of Inspire.  "We hope that the rest of the world will see this and understand that this is an important issue."

"We also hope that others will get a sense that their own experience is not all that unique, and they're not the only ones dealing with this," he said.  "That can help enormously."

About 20 percent of the respondents said that they had lost relationships with one or more people who were important to them.  And experts said women who gave birth to children prematurely were at a much higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"For most families of premature infants, the birth of a new child is no longer just an exciting event, but a complex event that mixes joy with fear, concern [and] disappointment," said Dr. Ian Holzman, chief of the division of newborn medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  "Most of their friends and relatives have little concept of either life in a NICU or the future uncertainties that face premature infants as they grow and develop."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio