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Babies born very premature can have brain development disrupted in intensive care unit, review finds

While most babies born more than two months prematurely now survive thanks to medical advances, little progress has been made in the past two decades in preventing associated developmental problems, an expert review has found.

The review also found that very preterm babies can have their brain development disrupted by environmental factors in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), including nutrition, pain, stress and parenting behaviours.

A review conducted by experts from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in the US and the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Australia found that while these neurodevelopmental problems can be related to brain injury during gestation or due to cardiac and respiratory issues in the first week of life, the environment of the NICU is also critical.

To improve outcomes for very preterm babies, the review recommended family based interventions that reduce parental stress during gestation, more research into rehabilitation in intensive care and in the early months of life, and greater understanding of the role of environment and parenting after birth.

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Source: The Guardian, 3 August 2023


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