Quality time with mom lowers health risks for preemies
Half a million babies born prematurely in the U.S. each year often face more challenges than those born at full-term and are at higher risk for health issues such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairments, and developmental delays.
Researchers from the University of Illinois in Chicago wanted to find out whether an early intervention program called H-HOPE – Hospital to Home Transition – could help close the gaps. The study found when a mother received special education and guidance in caring for her premature baby, the child grew and gained weight faster. The child also developed the muscle tone needed to successfully drink from a bottle quicker.
“The results of this study reinforce the known benefits of other hands-on interventions like Kangaroo Care,” says Dr. Dorothy Anoina, obstetrician/gynecologist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “This kind of care has physical and emotional benefits for both mom and baby, and is commonly used in Neonatal Intensive Care Units.”
Researchers also say that meeting these physical goals as early as possible can help give babies born prematurely a stronger start and lower their overall risk of health complications.
While these interventions are helpful, reducing premature births across the country is the ultimate goal, experts agree. Today, one of every nine babies is born before 37 weeks, and prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality. The mortality rate for black babies is more than two times higher than white babies, and prematurity is a major factor.
Although premature birth is sometimes unavoidable, there are several lifestyle changes women can make to lessen their risk, including avoiding unnecessary stress and maintaining a healthy diet, as well as, avoiding alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, Dr. Anoina says. Receiving timely prenatal care is also important as it helps doctors identify high-risk patients and provide necessary preventive care.
“Helping pregnant women and their babies reach full-term is best for everyone,” says Dr. Anoina. “However, some babies come early no matter what we do, so it’s important that we have all the tools possible to help them thrive and meet their full potential.”
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