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World Health Matters: Neonatal intervention helps development of pre-term babies

Written by | 20 Oct 2015 | All Medical News

by Gary Finnegan: Norway: Eleven percent of all births worldwide are preterm, or occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature birth is associated with higher neonatal mortality as well as long-term neurological disabilities.

About 40 percent of children born before 37 weeks have attentional and adaptive problems throughout primaryy school, often requiring specialised educational and psychiatric services.

New findings by the Northern Regional Health Authority in Norway suggest a support programme for babies and their parents in the first month of their lives can have a positive impact on their development later in childhood.

Researchers offered the parents of 72 children born preterm an early, brief intervention in the four weeks after birth. The intervention, called the Mother Infant Transaction Programme (MITP), consists of 11 one-hour sessions (some in the hospital before discharge, some at home) during which parents could talk about their experiences related to the pregnancy and delivery with support from a nurse, and learn about how to interpret their children’s strengths and limitations.

The programme’s goals were to promote more sensitive and positive parent-child interactions, and enhance parents’ enthusiasm for their children and sense of empowerment as parents.

After the programme was completed, researchers received reports from parents and teachers about the children’s behaviour from birth until nine years of age. The behavioural development of the 72 children born prematurely was compared with that of 74 children born prematurely who didn’t take part in the intervention and 75 children who were born full-term and also didn’t participate in the intervention.

At ages 7 and 9, the children whose parents took part in the intervention had significantly fewer attentional problems than the children born preterm whose parents didn’t participate in MITP, and they adapted more successfully to school.

At age 9, teachers and parents of the children born preterm whose parents took part in MITP assessed the behavioural problems and social and academic competencies of these children as similar to those of full-term children.

Children born preterm whose parents didn’t take part in the intervention were perceived by teachers to have more difficulties in their everyday lives at age 9 than children born preterm whose parents took part in MITP.

Further supporting the findings: Parents of children born preterm who didn’t take part in the intervention reported that they sought help and referrals to child psychiatric services twice as often as parents who took part in MITP.

“Our findings suggest that early intervention works for parents and children who experience a preterm birth,” says Inger Pauline Landsem, a doctoral student at University Hospital of North Norway and at the Arctic University of Norway, who led the study. “With the help of the MITP intervention, children born preterm can overcome the difficulties most frequently reported in their early school years.”


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