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1.  A systematic mapping review of effective interventions for communicating with, supporting and providing information to parents of preterm infants 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000023.
Background and objective
The birth of a preterm infant can be an overwhelming experience of guilt, fear and helplessness for parents. Provision of interventions to support and engage parents in the care of their infant may improve outcomes for both the parents and the infant. The objective of this systematic review is to identify and map out effective interventions for communication with, supporting and providing information for parents of preterm infants.
Systematic searches were conducted in the electronic databases Medline, Embase, PsychINFO, the Cochrane library, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Midwives Information and Resource Service, Health Management Information Consortium, and Health Management and Information Service. Hand-searching of reference lists and journals was conducted. Studies were included if they provided parent-reported outcomes of interventions relating to information, communication and/or support for parents of preterm infants prior to the birth, during care at the neonatal intensive care unit and after going home with their preterm infant. Titles and abstracts were read for relevance, and papers judged to meet inclusion criteria were included. Papers were data-extracted, their quality was assessed, and a narrative summary was conducted in line with the York Centre for Reviews and Dissemination guidelines.
Studies reviewed
Of the 72 papers identified, 19 papers were randomised controlled trials, 16 were cohort or quasi-experimental studies, and 37 were non-intervention studies.
Interventions for supporting, communicating with, and providing information to parents that have had a premature infant are reported. Parents report feeling supported through individualised developmental and behavioural care programmes, through being taught behavioural assessment scales, and through breastfeeding, kangaroo-care and baby-massage programmes. Parents also felt supported through organised support groups and through provision of an environment where parents can meet and support each other. Parental stress may be reduced through individual developmental care programmes, psychotherapy, interventions that teach emotional coping skills and active problem-solving, and journal writing. Evidence reports the importance of preparing parents for the neonatal unit through the neonatal tour, and the importance of good communication throughout the infant admission phase and after discharge home. Providing individual web-based information about the infant, recording doctor–patient consultations and provision of an information binder may also improve communication with parents. The importance of thorough discharge planning throughout the infant's admission phase and the importance of home-support programmes are also reported.
The paper reports evidence of interventions that help support, communicate with and inform parents who have had a premature infant throughout the admission phase of the infant, discharge and return home. The level of evidence reported is mixed, and this should be taken into account when developing policy. A summary of interventions from the available evidence is reported.
Article summary
Article focus
A systematic mapping review to identify and synthesise evidence of effective interventions for communicating with, supporting and providing information for parents of preterm infants.
Key messages
The review highlights the importance of encouraging and involving parents in the care of their preterm infant at the neonatal unit to enhance their ability to cope with and improve their confidence in caring for the infant, which may also lead to improved infant outcomes and reduced length of stay at the neonatal unit.
Interventions for supporting parents included: (1) involving parents in individualised developmental and behavioural care programmes (eg, Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE), Neonatal Individualised Developmental Care and Assessment Programme, Mother–Infant Transaction Programme (MITP)) and behavioural assessment programmes; (2) breastfeeding, kangaroo-care and infant-massage programmes; (3) support forums for parents; (4) interventions to alleviate parental stress; (5) preparation of parents for various stages—for example, seeing their infant for the first time, preparing to go home; (6) home-support programmes.
Involving parents in the exchange of information with and between health professionals is important, with various modes of providing this information reported—for example, ward rounds with doctors, discussion around infant notes, websites and hard-copy information.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This is the first review to synthesise the evidence of interventions to support parents of preterm infants through improved provision of information, improved communications between parents and health professionals, and alleviation of stress at all stages of a parent's journey through the neonatal unit. It highlights relatively inexpensive interventions that can be integrated into their pathway through the neonatal unit and return home, enhancing parental coping and potentially improving infant outcomes and reducing the infants length of stay at the neonatal unit.
The quality of the evidence that this review reports is variable, and includes all types of study designs. It has been difficult to evaluate one piece of evidence over another because of the nature of the evidence. For example, whether randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are an appropriate method of evaluating the parents' experiences of interventions over and above, say, a qualitative study is debatable. While the RCT studies are more objective, they often fail to provide a more in-depth empirical reality of parents' experiences of having a premature infant. A well-conducted RCT may not provide a true reflection of improved self-esteem or empowerment, for example, whereas a qualitative study provides an understanding of the experiences. Furthermore, evaluation of such complex interventions is challenging because of the various interconnecting parts of the pathway reported in figure 2.
It is therefore very difficult to evaluate the results to say that one study method is better than another. For this reason, we have been inclusive in our selection of studies, resulting in a large number of studies selected for the review. Being inclusive of studies benefits the evidence base by bringing together ‘experience’ studies in a systematic way gaining a greater breadth of perspectives and a deeper understanding of issues from the point of view of those targeted by the interventions. However, if studies were fatally flawed, they were excluded from the review.
PMCID: PMC3191395  PMID: 22021730
Social Health; community child health; paediatric intensive and critical care; education and training; quality in healthcare
2.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
3.  Baby Business: a randomised controlled trial of a universal parenting program that aims to prevent early infant sleep and cry problems and associated parental depression 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:13.
Infant crying and sleep problems (e.g. frequent night waking, difficulties settling to sleep) each affect up to 30% of infants and often co-exist. They are costly to manage and associated with adverse outcomes including postnatal depression symptoms, early weaning from breast milk, and later child behaviour problems. Preventing such problems could improve these adverse outcomes and reduce costs to families and the health care system. Anticipatory guidance-i.e. providing parents with information about normal infant sleep and cry patterns, ways to encourage self-settling in infants, and ways to develop feeding and settling routines before the onset of problems-could prevent such problems. This paper outlines the protocol for our study which aims to test an anticipatory guidance approach.
750 families from four Local Government Areas in Melbourne, Australia have been randomised to receive the Baby Business program (intervention group) or usual care (control group) offered by health services. The Baby Business program provides parents with information about infant sleep and crying via a DVD and booklet (mailed soon after birth), telephone consultation (at infant age 6-8 weeks) and parent group session (at infant age 12 weeks). All English speaking parents of healthy newborn infants born at > 32 weeks gestation and referred by their maternal and child health nurse at their first post partum home visit (day 7-10 postpartum), are eligible. The primary outcome is parent report of infant night time sleep as a problem at four months of age and secondary outcomes include parent report of infant daytime sleep or crying as a problem, mean duration of infant sleep and crying/24 hours, parental depression symptoms, parent sleep quality and quantity and health service use. Data will be collected at two weeks (baseline), four months and six months of age. An economic evaluation using a cost-consequences approach will, from a societal perspective, compare costs and health outcomes between the intervention and control groups.
To our knowledge this is the first randomised controlled trial of a program which aims to prevent both infant sleeping and crying problems and associated postnatal depression symptoms. If effective, it could offer an important public health prevention approach to these common, distressing problems.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC3292472  PMID: 22309617
4.  Touch and Massage for Medically Fragile Infants 
Research investigating the efficacy of infant massage has largely focused on premature and low birth weight infants. The majority of investigations have neglected highly acute patients in academic neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The current study was developed with two aims: (Phase 1) to develop, implement and demonstrate the feasibility and safety of a parent-trained compassionate touch/massage program for infants with complex medical conditions and (Phase 2) to conduct a longitudinal randomized control trial (RCT) of hand containment/massage versus standard of care in a level III academic Center for Newborn and Infant Critical Care (CNICC). Certified infant massage instructors (CIMIs) taught parents to massage their hospitalized infants. Massage therapy and instruction were performed for seven consecutive days and health outcomes were collected for up to 1 month following treatment. Caregivers, nurses and certified infant massage therapists indicated moderate to high levels of satisfaction and feasibility with the implementation of hand containment/massage in a level III academic center CNICC. In addition, infant behavioral and physiological measures were within safe limits during the massage sessions. All caregivers participating in the massage group reported high levels of satisfaction 7 days into the intervention and at the 1-month follow-up with regards to their relationship with their infant, the massage program's impact on that relationship and the massage program. Due to unequal and small sample sizes, between group analyses (control versus massage) were not conducted. Descriptive infant characteristics of health outcomes are described. Preliminary data from this study indicates feasibility and safety of infant massage and satisfaction among the caregivers, CIMIs and the nurses in the CNICC. An important contribution from this study was the demonstration of the infants’ safety based on physiological stability and no change in agitation/pain scores of the infants receiving massage. Massage in a tertiary urban academic NICU continues to be an area of needed study. Future studies examining infant health outcomes, such as weight gain, decreased length of hospitalization and caregiver–infant bonding, would provide greater insight into the impact of massage for medically fragile infants.
PMCID: PMC2781772  PMID: 18955228
medically fragile; infant massage; neonatal intensive care; caregiver depression; pediatric psychology; CAM; integrative medicine
5.  Randomised trial of a parenting intervention during neonatal intensive care 
To evaluate the influence of parenting intervention on maternal responsiveness and infant neurobehavioural development following a very premature birth.
Cluster‐randomised controlled trial, with a crossover design and three‐month washout period.
Six neonatal intensive care units.
Infants born <32 weeks' gestation.
The Parent Baby Interaction Programme (PBIP) is a supportive, educational intervention delivered by research nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit, with optional home follow‐up for up to six weeks after discharge.
Main outcome measures
Parenting stress at 3 months adjusted age, as measured by the Parenting Stress Index (PSI). Other outcomes included the Neurobehavioural Assessment of the Preterm Infant (NAPI) and maternal interaction as assessed by the Nursing Child Assessment Teaching Scale (NCATS) and the responsivity subscale for Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME).
112 infants were recruited in the intervention phases and 121 in the control phases. Mean standardised NAPI scores at 35 weeks did not differ between the PBIP and control groups. Both groups had low but similar NCATS caregiver scores before discharge (36.6 in the PBIP group and 37.4 in control, adjusted mean difference −0.7, 95% CI −2.7 to 1.4). At three months, adjusted age mean PSI scores for the PBIP group were 71.9 compared with 67.1 for controls (adjusted mean difference 3.8, 95% CI −4.7 to 12.4). NCATS scores and HOME responsivity scores were similarly distributed between the groups.
This early, nurse‐delivered, parent‐focused interaction programme intervention had no measurable effects on short‐term infant neurobehavioural function, mother–child interaction or parenting stresses.
PMCID: PMC2675386  PMID: 17301114
cluster randomised trial; interaction; parental stress; preterm infant; very premature birth
6.  Neurobehaviour between birth and 40 weeks’ gestation in infants born <30 weeks’ gestation and parental psychological wellbeing: predictors of brain development and child outcomes 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:111.
Infants born <30 weeks’ gestation are at increased risk of long term neurodevelopmental problems compared with term born peers. The predictive value of neurobehavioural examinations at term equivalent age in very preterm infants has been reported for subsequent impairment. Yet there is little knowledge surrounding earlier neurobehavioural development in preterm infants prior to term equivalent age, and how it relates to perinatal factors, cerebral structure, and later developmental outcomes. In addition, maternal psychological wellbeing has been associated with child development. Given the high rate of psychological distress reported by parents of preterm children, it is vital we understand maternal and paternal wellbeing in the early weeks and months after preterm birth and how this influences the parent–child relationship and children’s outcomes. Therefore this study aims to examine how 1) early neurobehaviour and 2) parental mental health relate to developmental outcomes for infants born preterm compared with infants born at term.
This prospective cohort study will describe the neurobehaviour of 150 infants born at <30 weeks’ gestational age from birth to term equivalent age, and explore how early neurobehavioural deficits relate to brain growth or injury determined by magnetic resonance imaging, perinatal factors, parental mental health and later developmental outcomes measured using standardised assessment tools at term, one and two years’ corrected age. A control group of 150 healthy term-born infants will also be recruited for comparison of outcomes. To examine the effects of parental mental health on developmental outcomes, both parents of preterm and term-born infants will complete standardised questionnaires related to symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress at regular intervals from the first week of their child’s birth until their child’s second birthday. The parent–child relationship will be assessed at one and two years’ corrected age.
Detailing the trajectory of infant neurobehaviour and parental psychological distress following very preterm birth is important not only to identify infants most at risk, further understand the parental experience and highlight potential times for intervention for the infant and/or parent, but also to gain insight into the effect this has on parent–child interaction and child development.
PMCID: PMC4016657  PMID: 24758605
Preterm; Neurobehaviour; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neurodevelopment; Parent mental health; Parent–child interaction
7.  Pregnancy and Infant Outcomes among HIV-Infected Women Taking Long-Term ART with and without Tenofovir in the DART Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(5):e1001217.
Diana Gibb and colleagues investigate the effect of in utero tenofovir exposure by analyzing the pregnancy and infant outcomes of HIV-infected women enrolled in the DART trial.
Few data have described long-term outcomes for infants born to HIV-infected African women taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnancy. This is particularly true for World Health Organization (WHO)–recommended tenofovir-containing first-line regimens, which are increasingly used and known to cause renal and bone toxicities; concerns have been raised about potential toxicity in babies due to in utero tenofovir exposure.
Methods and Findings
Pregnancy outcome and maternal/infant ART were collected in Ugandan/Zimbabwean HIV-infected women initiating ART during The Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial, which compared routine laboratory monitoring (CD4; toxicity) versus clinically driven monitoring. Women were followed 15 January 2003 to 28 September 2009. Infant feeding, clinical status, and biochemistry/haematology results were collected in a separate infant study. Effect of in utero ART exposure on infant growth was analysed using random effects models.
382 pregnancies occurred in 302/1,867 (16%) women (4.4/100 woman-years [95% CI 4.0–4.9]). 226/390 (58%) outcomes were live-births, 27 (7%) stillbirths (≥22 wk), and 137 (35%) terminations/miscarriages (<22 wk). Of 226 live-births, seven (3%) infants died <2 wk from perinatal causes and there were seven (3%) congenital abnormalities, with no effect of in utero tenofovir exposure (p>0.4). Of 219 surviving infants, 182 (83%) enrolled in the follow-up study; median (interquartile range [IQR]) age at last visit was 25 (12–38) months. From mothers' ART, 62/9/111 infants had no/20%–89%/≥90% in utero tenofovir exposure; most were also zidovudine/lamivudine exposed. All 172 infants tested were HIV-negative (ten untested). Only 73/182(40%) infants were breast-fed for median 94 (IQR 75–212) days. Overall, 14 infants died at median (IQR) age 9 (3–23) months, giving 5% 12-month mortality; six of 14 were HIV-uninfected; eight untested infants died of respiratory infection (three), sepsis (two), burns (one), measles (one), unknown (one). During follow-up, no bone fractures were reported to have occurred; 12/368 creatinines and seven out of 305 phosphates were grade one (16) or two (three) in 14 children with no effect of in utero tenofovir (p>0.1). There was no evidence that in utero tenofovir affected growth after 2 years (p = 0.38). Attained height- and weight for age were similar to general (HIV-uninfected) Ugandan populations. Study limitations included relatively small size and lack of randomisation to maternal ART regimens.
Overall 1-year 5% infant mortality was similar to the 2%–4% post-neonatal mortality observed in this region. No increase in congenital, renal, or growth abnormalities was observed with in utero tenofovir exposure. Although some infants died untested, absence of recorded HIV infection with combination ART in pregnancy is encouraging. Detailed safety of tenofovir for pre-exposure prophylaxis will need confirmation from longer term follow-up of larger numbers of exposed children.
Trial registration ISRCTN13968779
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Currently, about 34 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV but now about half of all people living with HIV/AIDS are women, most of who became infected through unprotected sex with an infected partner. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 12 million women are HIV-positive. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. Moreover, most of the 400,000 children who become infected with HIV every year acquire the virus from their mother during pregnancy or birth, or through breastfeeding, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)—treatment with cocktails of powerful antiretroviral drugs—reduces HIV-related illness and death among women, and ART given to HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy and delivery and to their newborn babies greatly reduces MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because of ongoing international efforts to increase ART coverage, more HIV-positive women in Africa have access to ART now than ever before. However, little is known about pregnancy outcomes among HIV-infected African women taking ART throughout pregnancy for their own health or about the long-term outcomes of their offspring. In particular, few studies have examined the effect of taking tenofovir (an antiretroviral drug that is now recommended as part of first-line ART) throughout pregnancy. Tenofovir readily crosses from mother to child during pregnancy and, in animal experiments, high doses of tenofovir given during pregnancy caused bone demineralization (which weakens bones), kidney problems, and impaired growth among offspring. In this study, the researchers analyze data collected on pregnancy and infant outcomes among Ugandan and Zimbabwean HIV-positive women who took ART throughout pregnancy in the Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial. This trial was designed to test whether ART could be safely and effectively delivered in Africa without access to the expensive laboratory tests that are routinely used to monitor ART toxicity and efficacy in developed countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The pregnancy outcomes of 302 women who became pregnant during the DART trial and information on birth defects among their babies were collected as part of the DART protocol; information on the survival, growth, and development of the infants born to these women was collected in a separate infant study. Most of the women who became pregnant were taking tenofovir-containing ART before and throughout their pregnancies. 58% of the pregnancies resulted in a live birth, 7% resulted in a stillbirth (birth of a dead baby at any time from 22 weeks gestation to the end of pregnancy), and 35% resulted in a termination or miscarriage (before 22 weeks gestation). Of the 226 live births, seven infants died within 2 weeks and seven had birth defects. Similar proportions of the infants exposed and not exposed to tenofovir during pregnancy died soon after birth or had birth defects. Of the 182 surviving infants who were enrolled in the infant study, 14 subsequently died at an average age of 9 months, giving a 1-year mortality of 5%. None of the surviving children who were tested (172 infants) were HIV infected. No bone fractures or major kidney problems occurred during follow-up and prebirth exposure to tenofovir in utero had no effect on growth or weight gain at 2 years (in contrast to a previous US study).
What Do These Findings Mean?
By showing that prebirth tenofovir exposure does not affect pregnancy outcomes or increase birth defects, growth abnormalities, or kidney problems, these findings support the use of tenofovir-containing ART during pregnancy among HIV-positive African women, and suggest that it could also be used to prevent women of child-bearing age acquiring HIV-infection heterosexually. Notably, the observed 5% 1-year infant mortality is similar to the 2%–4% infant mortality normally seen in the region. The absence of HIV infection among the infants born to the DART participants is also encouraging. However, this is a small study (only 111 infants were exposed to tenofovir throughout pregnancy) and women were not randomly assigned to receive tenofovir-containing ART. Consequently, more studies are needed to confirm that tenofovir exposure during pregnancy does not affect pregnancy outcomes or have any long-term effects on infants. Such studies are essential because the use of tenofovir as a treatment for women who are HIV-positive is likely to increase and tenofovir may also be used in the future to prevent HIV acquisition in HIV-uninfected women.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, women, HIV and AIDS, children, HIV and AIDS, and on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy (some information in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
More information about the DART trial is available
Additional patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3352861  PMID: 22615543
8.  An evaluation of the parents under pressure programme: a study protocol for an RCT into its clinical and cost effectiveness 
Trials  2013;14:210.
Many babies in the UK are born to drug-dependent parents, and dependence on psychoactive drugs during the postnatal period is associated with high rates of child maltreatment, with around a quarter of these children being subject to a child protection plan. Parents who are dependent on psychoactive drugs are at risk of a wide range of parenting problems, and studies have found reduced sensitivity and responsiveness to both the infant’s physical and emotional needs. The poor outcomes that are associated with such drug dependency appear to be linked to the multiple difficulties experienced by such parents.
An increase in understanding about the crucial importance of early relationships for infant well-being has led to a focus on the development and delivery of services that are aimed at supporting parenting and parent–infant interactions. The Parents under Pressure (PuP) programme is aimed at supporting parents who are dependent on psychoactive drugs or alcohol by providing them with methods of managing their emotional regulation, and of supporting their new baby’s development. An evaluation of the PuP programme in Australia with parents on methadone maintenance of children aged 3 to 8 years found significant reductions in child abuse potential, rigid parenting attitudes and child behaviour problems.
The study comprises a multicentre randomised controlled trial using a mixed-methods approach to data collection and analysis in order to identify which families are most able to benefit from this intervention.
The study is being conducted in six family centres across the UK, and targets primary caregivers of children less than 2.5 years of age who are substance dependent. Consenting participants are randomly allocated to either the 20-week PuP programme or to standard care.
The primary outcome is child abuse potential, and secondary outcomes include substance use, parental mental health and emotional regulation, parenting stress, and infant/toddler socio-emotional adjustment scale.
This is one the first UK studies to examine the effectiveness of a programme targeting the parenting of substance-dependent parents of infants and toddlers, in terms of its effectiveness in improving the parent–infant relationship and reducing the potential for child abuse.
Trial registration
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register: ISRCTN47282925
PMCID: PMC3717037  PMID: 23841920
Parenting; Substance misuse; Drug abuse; Alcohol abuse; Infants; Parents under pressure
9.  Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Supports Among Parents of Premature and Full-Term Infants 
Premature birth is one of the most important unresolved reproductive health problems. Premature birth is often traumatic and a source of distress for parents. Increased parental stress during the first year of their infant's life is a risk factor for later behavioral problems in infants.
This study was designed to compare anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and social supports in parents of premature and mature infants.
Patients and Methods:
This was a comparative descriptive study conducted at healthcare centers of Qom city, in 2012. In this study, 82 couples (164 parents) divided into two groups including parents who have preterm and term infants. Questionnaires including items such as demographic characteristics, obstetric and post-traumatic stress disorders, Spielberger anxiety and Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support were completed two months after childbirth. Data were analyzed using χ2 test, Fisher’s exact test, Mann-Whitney test, independent t-test, and regression logistic using SPSS18 software.
The levels of anxiety was not significantly different in mothers and fathers in the two groups, but the trait anxiety level of mothers (P < 0.001) and fathers who had preterm infants (P = 0.01) was significantly greater than the parents of full-term infants. Post-traumatic stress disorder was significantly greater in mothers of preterm infants than those of term infants (P = 0.03), but this amount was not significantly different between the two groups of fathers. Mothers' social support did not differ significantly (P = 0.08), however, it was significantly different in fathers (P = 0.01).
Premature infants' parents are more at risk of mental disorders than term infants' parents. This result shows the need of interventions, so these parents can better deal with the problems of premature infants.
PMCID: PMC4005428  PMID: 24829766
Infant, Premature; Anxiety; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic; Social Support
10.  The Effect of Changing Patterns of Obstetric Care in Scotland (1980–2004) on Rates of Preterm Birth and Its Neonatal Consequences: Perinatal Database Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000153.
Jane Norman and colleagues analyzed linked perinatal surveillance data in Scotland and find that between 1980 and 2004 increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births.
Rates of preterm birth are rising worldwide. Studies from the United States and Latin America suggest that much of this rise relates to increased rates of medically indicated preterm birth. In contrast, European and Australian data suggest that increases in spontaneous preterm labour also play a role. We aimed, in a population-based database of 5 million people, to determine the temporal trends and obstetric antecedents of singleton preterm birth and its associated neonatal mortality and morbidity for the period 1980–2004.
Methods and Findings
There were 1.49 million births in Scotland over the study period, of which 5.8% were preterm. We found a percentage increase in crude rates of both spontaneous preterm birth per 1,000 singleton births (10.7%, p<0.01) and medically indicated preterm births (41.2%, p<0.01), which persisted when adjusted for maternal age at delivery. The greater proportion of spontaneous preterm births meant that the absolute increase in rates of preterm birth in each category were similar. Of specific maternal complications, essential and pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and placenta praevia played a decreasing role in preterm birth over the study period, with gestational and pre-existing diabetes playing an increasing role. There was a decline in stillbirth, neonatal, and extended perinatal mortality associated with preterm birth at all gestation over the study period but an increase in the rate of prolonged hospital stay for the neonate. Neonatal mortality improved in all subgroups, regardless of obstetric antecedent of preterm birth or gestational age. In the 28 wk and greater gestational groups we found a reduction in stillbirths and extended perinatal mortality for medically induced but not spontaneous preterm births (in the absence of maternal complications) although at the expense of a longer stay in neonatal intensive care. This improvement in stillbirth and neonatal mortality supports the decision making behind the 34% increase in elective/induced preterm birth in these women. Although improvements in neonatal outcomes overall are welcome, preterm birth still accounts for over 66% of singleton stillbirths, 65% of singleton neonatal deaths, and 67% of infants whose stay in the neonatal unit is “prolonged,” suggesting this condition remains a significant contributor to perinatal mortality and morbidity.
In our population, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births have made equal contributions to the rising rate of preterm birth. Despite improvements in related perinatal mortality, preterm birth remains a major obstetric and neonatal problem, and its frequency is increasing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother). Nowadays in the US, for example, more than half a million babies arrive earlier than expected every year (1 in 8 babies). Although improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal care) mean that preterm babies are more likely to survive than in the past, preterm birth remains the single biggest cause of infant death in many developed countries, and many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities, particularly those born before 32 weeks of gestation. Preterm births can be spontaneous or medically induced. At present, it impossible to predict which mothers will spontaneously deliver early and there is no effective way to prevent these preterm births; medically induced early labor is undertaken when either the unborn baby or mother would be at risk if the pregnancy continued to full term.
Why Was This Study Done?
Preterm birth rates need to be reduced, but before this can be done it is important to know how the causes of preterm birth, the numbers of preterm stillbirths, and the numbers of preterm babies who die at birth (neonatal deaths) or soon after (perinatal deaths) are changing with time. If, for example, the rise in preterm births is mainly due to an increase in medically induced labor and if this change in practice has reduced neonatal deaths, it would be unwise to try to reduce the preterm birth rate by discouraging medically induced preterm births. So far, data from the US and Latin America suggest that the increase in preterm births in these countries is solely due to increased rates of medically induced preterm births. However, in Europe and Australia, the rate of spontaneous preterm births also seems to be increasing. In this study, the researchers examine the trends over time and causes of preterm birth and of neonatal death and illness in Scotland over a 25-year period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By searching a Scottish database of linked maternity records and infant health and death records, the researchers identified 1.49 million singleton births that occurred between 1980 and 2004 of which nearly 90,000 were preterm births. Over the study period, the rates of spontaneous and of medically induced preterm births per 1,000 births increased by 10.7% and 41.2%, respectively, but because there were more spontaneous preterm births than medically induced preterm births, the absolute increase in the rates of each type of birth was similar. Several maternal complications including preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure) and placenta previa (covering of the opening of the cervix by the placenta) played a decreasing role in preterm births over the study period, whereas gestational and preexisting diabetes played an increasing role. Finally, there was a decline in stillbirths and in neonatal and perinatal deaths among preterm babies, although more babies remained in the hospital longer than 7 days after birth. More specifically, after 28 weeks of gestation, stillbirths and perinatal deaths decreased among medically induced preterm births but not among spontaneous preterm births.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that in Scotland between 1980 and 2004, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births. Importantly, they also show that the increase in induced preterm births helped to reduce stillbirths and neonatal and perinatal deaths, a finding that supports the criteria that clinicians currently use to decide whether to induce an early birth. Nevertheless, preterm births still account for two-thirds of all stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and extended neonatal stays in hospital and thus cause considerable suffering and greatly increase the workload in neonatal units. The rates of such births consequently need to be reduced and, for Scotland at least, ways will have to be found to reduce the rates of both spontaneous and induced preterm births to achieve this goal while continuing to identify those sick babies who need to be delivered early to give them the best chance of survival.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Tommys is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on maternal and infant health (in English and Spanish)
The US National Women's Health Information Center has detailed information about pregnancy, including a section on pregnancy complications
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies and to information on pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2740823  PMID: 19771156
11.  The Effect of Intermittent Antenatal Iron Supplementation on Maternal and Infant Outcomes in Rural Viet Nam: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001470.
Beverley-Anne Biggs and colleagues conduct a community-based cluster randomized trial in rural Viet Nam to compare the effect of antenatal iron-folic acid supplementation taken daily or twice weekly on maternal and infant outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Anemia affects over 500 million women, and in pregnancy is associated with impaired maternal and infant outcomes. Intermittent antenatal iron supplementation is an attractive alternative to daily dosing; however, the impact of this strategy on infant outcomes remains unclear. We compared the effect of intermittent antenatal iron supplementation with daily iron supplementation on maternal and infant outcomes in rural Viet Nam.
Methods and Findings
This cluster randomised trial was conducted in Ha Nam province, Viet Nam. 1,258 pregnant women (<16 wk gestation) in 104 communes were assigned to daily iron–folic acid (IFA), twice weekly IFA, or twice weekly multiple micronutrient (MMN) supplementation. Primary outcome was birth weight. Mean birth weight was 3,148 g (standard deviation 416). There was no difference in the birth weights of infants of women receiving twice weekly IFA compared to daily IFA (mean difference [MD] 28 g; 95% CI −22 to 78), or twice weekly MMN compared to daily IFA (MD −36.8 g; 95% CI −82 to 8.2). At 32 wk gestation, maternal ferritin was lower in women receiving twice weekly IFA compared to daily IFA (geometric mean ratio 0.73; 95% CI 0.67 to 0.80), and in women receiving twice weekly MMN compared to daily IFA (geometric mean ratio 0.62; 95% CI 0.57 to 0.68), but there was no difference in hemoglobin levels. Infants of mothers who received twice weekly IFA had higher cognitive scores at 6 mo of age compared to those who received daily IFA (MD 1.89; 95% CI 0.23 to 3.56).
Twice weekly antenatal IFA or MMN did not produce a clinically important difference in birth weight, when compared to daily IFA supplementation. The significant improvement in infant cognitive outcomes at 6 mo of age following twice weekly antenatal IFA requires further exploration, and provides additional support for the use of intermittent, rather than daily, antenatal IFA in populations with low rates of iron deficiency.
Trial registration
Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry 12610000944033
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Anemia is a common condition in which the blood does not supply the body with enough oxygen because of a low number of red blood cells or low levels of hemoglobin—the iron-containing pigment that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia worldwide and, according to the World Health Organization, affects over 2 billion people: half of all pregnant women and 40% of preschool children in low- and middle-income countries are thought to be anemic. Anemia contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths and is also linked to increased maternal morbidity, higher rates of preterm birth and low birth weight, and reduced infant survival, with potential long-term consequences for child growth and development. Identifying and treating iron deficiency anemia is therefore a global health priority.
Why Was This Study Done?
Daily iron–folic acid supplementation given from early in pregnancy is the standard recommended approach to prevent and treat anemia in pregnant women, but recently the World Health Organization recommended intermittent use because of poor compliance with daily regimes (because of side effects) and poor bowel absorption. However, the evidence from many of the studies used to support this recommendation was of poor quality, and so it remains unclear whether intermittent supplementation is as, or more, effective than daily supplementation, especially in lower income settings where antenatal testing for anemia is not readily available. So in this study, the researchers conducted a community-based cluster randomized trial (where groups of people are randomized, rather than individuals) in rural Viet Nam to compare the effect of antenatal iron–folic acid supplementation taken twice weekly (either alone, or in combination with other micronutrients) with daily iron–folic acid supplementation, on maternal and infant outcomes during the first six months of life.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomized 104 communes in Ha Nam Province, Viet Nam, and enrolled 1,258 women who were less than 16 weeks pregnant into the study between September and November 2010. Although the researchers intended to register the trial before the study started, registration was delayed by a month because the supplements arrived earlier than the researchers anticipated, and they thought it best to start recruiting at that time to avoid the Vietnamese New Year, when women might be travelling. Each woman was interviewed and had blood taken for hemoglobin and iron indices (ferritin) before receiving daily iron–folic acid supplementation (426 women), twice weekly iron–folic acid supplementation (425 women), or twice weekly iron–folic acid supplementation plus micronutrients (407 women). The women had follow-up assessments at 32 weeks gestation, delivery, and at six months postpartum: their infants were assessed at birth and at six months old.
The researchers found that at enrollment, the women's average hemoglobin concentration was 123 g/l, and 12.6% of the women were anemic. At 32 weeks gestation, 10.8% of the women were anemic, but there was no difference in hemoglobin levels between the three supplement groups. The average ferritin level was 75.6 µg/l at enrollment, with 2.2% of women iron deficient. Ferritin levels decreased from enrollment to 32 weeks gestation in all supplement groups but were lower in women who took twice weekly supplements. The researchers also found that birth weight (the primary outcome) was similar in all supplement groups, and there were also no differences in gestational age or in the risk of prematurity, stillbirth, or early neonatal death. At six months, there were also no differences in the levels of infant hemoglobin, prevalence of anemia, or growth rates. However, infants born to mothers in the twice weekly iron–folic acid group had improved cognitive development compared to infants born to mothers in the daily supplement group. Finally, the researchers found that adherence rates were significantly higher in the twice weekly iron–folic acid supplement group compared to the once daily regime.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that in an area of Southeast Asia with low anemia prevalence, once daily antenatal supplementation with iron–folic acid did not provide any benefits in birth weight or improved infant growth over twice weekly supplementation. Furthermore, twice weekly supplementation with iron–folic acid was associated with improved maternal adherence rates and also improved cognitive development in infants aged six months—a finding that requires further study and provides added support for the use of intermittent iron–folic acid supplementation over daily supplementation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization website has comprehensive information on anemia, including a report of global estimates and the guideline Intermittent Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation in Non-Anaemic Pregnant Women
Wikipedia provides information on iron supplementation (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3708703  PMID: 23853552
12.  Induction of Labor versus Expectant Management in Women with Preterm Prelabor Rupture of Membranes between 34 and 37 Weeks: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001208.
In a randomized controlled trial David van der Ham and colleagues investigate induction of labor versus expectant management for women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes.
At present, there is insufficient evidence to guide appropriate management of women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM) near term.
Methods and Findings
We conducted an open-label randomized controlled trial in 60 hospitals in The Netherlands, which included non-laboring women with >24 h of PPROM between 34+0 and 37+0 wk of gestation. Participants were randomly allocated in a 1∶1 ratio to induction of labor (IoL) or expectant management (EM) using block randomization. The main outcome was neonatal sepsis. Secondary outcomes included mode of delivery, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), and chorioamnionitis. Patients and caregivers were not blinded to randomization status. We updated a prior meta-analysis on the effect of both interventions on neonatal sepsis, RDS, and cesarean section rate.
From 1 January 2007 to 9 September 2009, 776 patients in 60 hospitals were eligible for the study, of which 536 patients were randomized. Four patients were excluded after randomization. We allocated 266 women (268 neonates) to IoL and 266 women (270 neonates) to EM. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven (2.6%) newborns of women in the IoL group and in 11 (4.1%) neonates in the EM group (relative risk [RR] 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.25 to 1.6). RDS was seen in 21 (7.8%, IoL) versus 17 neonates (6.3%, EM) (RR 1.3; 95% CI 0.67 to 2.3), and a cesarean section was performed in 36 (13%, IoL) versus 37 (14%, EM) women (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.64 to 1.50). The risk for chorioamnionitis was reduced in the IoL group. No serious adverse events were reported.
Updating an existing meta-analysis with our trial results (the only eligible trial for the update) indicated RRs of 1.06 (95% CI 0.64 to 1.76) for neonatal sepsis (eight trials, 1,230 neonates) and 1.27 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.65) for cesarean section (eight trials, 1,222 women) for IoL compared with EM.
In women whose pregnancy is complicated by late PPROM, neither our trial nor the updated meta-analysis indicates that IoL substantially improves pregnancy outcomes compared with EM.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN29313500
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but in industrialized countries, 5%–10% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Premature birth is a major cause of infant death in many developed countries, and preterm babies can also have short- and/or long-term health problems such as breathing problems, increased susceptibility to life-threatening infections, and learning and developmental disabilities. There are many reasons why some babies are born prematurely, but preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes (PPROM) accounts for 30%–40% of preterm deliveries. Inside the womb, the baby is held in a fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid cushions the baby, helps some of its organs develop, and protects both mother and baby from infection. The membranes that form the sac usually break at the start of labor (“water breaking”), but in PPROM, the membranes break before the baby is fully grown. PPROM increases the mother's risk of a womb infection called chorioamnionitis and the baby's risk of neonatal sepsis (blood infection), and can trigger early labor.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is currently no consensus on how to manage women whose membranes rupture between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. Some guidelines recommend immediate induction of labor if PPROM occurs at or beyond 34 weeks' gestation. Others recommend that labor not be induced unless the mother develops signs of infection such as a high temperature or has not delivered her baby spontaneously by 37 weeks' gestation (expectant management). Before 34 weeks' gestation, expectant management is generally recommended. In this randomized controlled trial, the researchers compare the effects of induction of labor and of expectant management on the rate of neonatal sepsis (the proportion of babies that develop neonatal sepsis; the trial's primary outcome) and on secondary outcomes such as the rates of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), cesarean section (surgical delivery), and chorioamnionitis in women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. The researchers also undertake a meta-analysis of published trials on the effect of both interventions on pregnancy outcomes. A randomized controlled trial compares the effects of different interventions in groups of individuals chosen through the play of chance; meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several trials.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the PPROM Expectant Management versus Induction of Labor (PRROMEXIL) trial, 532 non-laboring women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation were randomly assigned to either immediate induction of labor or expectant management. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven babies born to women in the induction of labor group and in 11 babies born to women in the expectant management group. This difference was not statistically significant. That is, it could have happened by chance. Similarly, although more babies born to women in the induction of labor group than in the expectant management group developed RDS (21 and 17 babies, respectively), this difference was not significant. Cesarean section rates were similar in both intervention groups, but the risk of chorioamnionitis was slightly reduced in the induction of labor group compared to the expectant management group. Finally, the researchers' meta-analysis (which included these new results) found no significant differences in the risk of neonatal sepsis, RDS, or cesarean section associated with the two interventions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, compared to expectant management, induction of labor did not reduce the incidence of neonatal sepsis in pregnancies complicated by PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. However, because fewer babies than expected born to the women in the expectant management group developed neonatal sepsis, this trial was underpowered. That is, too few women were enrolled in the trial to enable the detection of a small difference between the interventions in the neonatal sepsis rate. These findings also show that induction of labor did not substantially affect most of the secondary outcomes measured by the researchers. Given these results and those of their meta-analysis, the researchers conclude that, in women whose pregnancy is complicated by PPROM late in pregnancy, induction of labor does not substantially improve the outcome for either the woman or her baby compared to expectant management.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish); its News Moms Need blog contains a post on PPROM
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines on the diagnosis, investigation, and management of PPROM are available (in English and Russian)
Information about the PPROMEXIL trial is available
Personal stories about PPROM are available on the Austprem web site, a non-profit organization that provides information about prematurity and support for parents of premature babies in Australia
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3335867  PMID: 22545024
13.  How Well Do Clinical Pain Assessment Tools Reflect Pain in Infants? 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e129.
Pain in infancy is poorly understood, and medical staff often have difficulty assessing whether an infant is in pain. Current pain assessment tools rely on behavioural and physiological measures, such as change in facial expression, which may not accurately reflect pain experience. Our ability to measure cortical pain responses in young infants gives us the first opportunity to evaluate pain assessment tools with respect to the sensory input and establish whether the resultant pain scores reflect cortical pain processing.
Methods and Findings
Cortical haemodynamic activity was measured in infants, aged 25–43 wk postmenstrual, using near-infrared spectroscopy following a clinically required heel lance and compared to the magnitude of the premature infant pain profile (PIPP) score in the same infant to the same stimulus (n = 12, 33 test occasions). Overall, there was good correlation between the PIPP score and the level of cortical activity (regression coefficient = 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] limits 0.32–1.11, p = 0.001; correlation coefficient = 0.57). Of the different PIPP components, facial expression correlated best with cortical activity (regression coefficient = 1.26, 95% CI limits 0.84–1.67, p < 0.0001; correlation coefficient = 0.74) (n = 12, 33 test occasions). Cortical pain responses were still recorded in some infants who did not display a change in facial expression.
While painful stimulation generally evokes parallel cortical and behavioural responses in infants, pain may be processed at the cortical level without producing detectable behavioural changes. As a result, an infant with a low pain score based on behavioural assessment tools alone may not be pain free.
Rebeccah Slater and colleagues show that although painful stimulation generally evokes parallel cortical and behavioral responses in infants, pain may produce cortical responses without detectable behavioral changes.
Editors' Summary
Pain is a sensory and emotional experience. It is normally triggered by messages transmitted from specialized receptors (nociceptors) in the body to integrative centers in the spinal cord and brainstem and on to the brain, where it undergoes higher sensory and cognitive analysis, allowing the body to respond appropriately to the stimuli. While the experience of pain may be considered to be unpleasant, it is a useful tool in communicating to us and to others that there is something wrong with our bodies. Ultimately, these responses help restrict further damage to the body and start the process of healing.
In a clinical setting, the ability to communicate about pain allows an individual to seek strategies to ease the pain, such as taking analgesics. Being unable to effectively communicate one's experience of pain leaves the individual vulnerable to prolonged suffering. One such vulnerable group is infants.
Ignored and untreated pain in infants has been shown to have immediate and long-term effects as a result of structural and physiological changes within the nervous system. For example, the body responds to untreated pain by increased release of stress hormones, which may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality in the short term. Long-term effects of pain may include altered pain perception, chronic pain syndromes, and somatic complaints such as sleep disturbances, feeding problems, and inability to self-regulate in response to internal and external stressors. It has been proposed that attention deficit disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral problems in later childhood may be linked to repetitive pain in the preterm infant.
Why Was This Study Done?
Until as recently as the 1990s, newborns in some clinical centres underwent surgery with minimal anesthesia. Also, newborns received little or no pain management postoperatively or for painful procedures such as lumbar punctures or circumcisions. Since then, there has been growing awareness amongst clinicians that pain may be experienced from the earliest stages of postnatal life and that inadequate analgesia may lead to the type of long-term consequences mentioned above. However, gauging how much pain infants and young children are experiencing remains a substantial challenge. The researchers in this study wanted to assess the association between cortical pain responses in young infants and currently used tools for the assessment of pain in these infants. These current tools are based on behavioral and physiological measures, such as change in facial expression, and it is possible that these tools do not give an adequate measure of pain especially in infants born preterm.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Twelve clinically stable infants were studied on 33 occasions when they required a heel lance to obtain a blood sample for a clinical reason. The researchers examined the relationship between brain activity and a clinical pain score, calculated using the premature infant pain profile (PIPP) in response to a painful event. Activity in the somatosensory cortex was measured noninvasively by near-infrared spectroscopy, which measures brain regional changes in oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration. The PIPP is a well-established pain score that ascribes a value to infant behavior such as change in facial expression.
They found that changes in brain activity in response to a painful stimulus were related to the PIPP scores. These changes were more strongly linked to the behavioral components of the PIPP, e.g., facial expression, than physiological components, e.g., heart rate. They also found that a positive brain response could occur in the absence of any facial expression.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Behaviors to communicate pain require motor responses to sensory and emotional stimuli. The maturity of this complex system in infants is not clearly understood. The results of this study raise further awareness of the ability of infants to experience pain and highlight the possibility that pain assessment based on behavioral tools alone may underestimate the pain response in infants.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Important papers on pain in human neonates are discussed in the open access Paediatric Pain Letter with links to original articles
The Institute of Child Health in London has a Web site describing a three-year international project on improving the assessment of pain in hospitalized children, with many useful links
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) provides accurate and up-to-date information and links about pain mechanisms and treatment
PMCID: PMC2504041  PMID: 18578562
14.  Cognitive and Motor Development Among Small-for-Gestational-Age Infants: Impact of Zinc Supplementation, Birth Weight, and Caregiving Practices 
Pediatrics  2004;113(5):1297-1305.
Infants who are born small for gestational age (SGA) are at risk for developmental delays, which may be related to deficiencies in zinc, an essential trace metal, or to deficiencies in their ability to elicit caregiver responsiveness (functional isolation hypothesis). The objective of this study was to evaluate at 6 and 10 months of age the impact of a 9-month supplementation trial of 5 mg of zinc on the development and behavior of infants who were born SGA and to evaluate infants’ ability to elicit responsive caregiver behavior.
A randomized, controlled trial of zinc supplementation was conducted among 200 infants in a low-income, urban community in Delhi, India. Infants were recruited when they were full term (>36 weeks) and SGA (birth weight <10th percentile weight-for-gestational age). Infants were randomized to receive daily supplements of a micronutrient mix (folate, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin) with or without 5 mg of zinc sulfate. The supplement was administered by field workers daily from 30 days to 9 months of age. At 6 and 10 months, infant development and behavior were measured in a clinical setting using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II. Caregiver responsiveness, observed on an Indian version of the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment scale, was measured during a home visit at 10 months. During both the clinic and home visits, caregivers reported on their infant’s temperament.
There were no direct effects of zinc supplementation on the infants’ development or behavior at either 6 or 10 months. In a subgroup analysis among the zinc-supplemented infants, lower birth weight infants were perceived to be more temperamentally difficult than higher weight infants; in the control group, birth weight was not associated with temperament. Heavier birth weight infants had better scores on all measures of development and behavior at 6 months and on changes in mental and motor development from 6 to 10 months, compared with lighter birth weight infants. Boys had better weight gain and higher scores on mental development and emotional regulation than girls. Infants who were from families of higher socioeconomic status (indexed by parental education, house size, and home ownership) had higher scores on mental development and orientation/engagement (exploratory behavior) than infants who were from families of lower socioeconomic status. In keeping with the functional isolation hypothesis, caregiver responsiveness was associated with infant irritability, controlling for socioeconomic status, gender, birth weight, and weight gain. Responsive mothers were more likely to perceive their infants to be temperamentally easy than less responsive mothers.
Possible explanations for the lack of effects of zinc supplementation on infant development and behavior include 1) subtle effects of zinc supplementation that may not have been detected by the Bayley Scales, 2) interference with other nutritional deficiencies, or 3) no impact of zinc deficiency on infants’ development and behavior. The link between birth weight and irritability among infants in the zinc supplementation group suggests that the response to zinc supplementation may differ by birth weight, with irritability occurring among the most vulnerable infants. Longer term follow-up studies among zinc-supplemented infants are needed to examine whether early supplementation leads to developmental or behavioral changes that have an impact on school-age performance. The relationship between infant irritability and low maternal responsiveness lends support to the functional isolation hypothesis and the importance of asking caregivers about infant temperament.
PMCID: PMC3140639  PMID: 15121945
zinc deficiency; cognitive development; mental development; motor development; behavior; temperament; maternal responsiveness
15.  Early intervention to protect the mother-infant relationship following postnatal depression: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15(1):385.
At least 13% of mothers experience depression in the first postnatal year, with accompanying feelings of despair and a range of debilitating symptoms. Serious sequelae include disturbances in the mother-infant relationship and poor long-term cognitive and behavioural outcomes for the child. Surprisingly, treatment of maternal symptoms of postnatal depression does not improve the mother-infant relationship for a majority of women. Targeted interventions to improve the mother-infant relationship following postnatal depression are scarce and, of those that exist, the majority are not evaluated in randomised controlled trials. This study aims to evaluate a brief targeted mother-infant intervention, to follow cognitive behavioural therapy treatment of postnatal depression, which has the potential to improve developmental outcomes of children of depressed mothers.
The proposed study is a two-arm randomised controlled trial with follow-up to 6 months. One hundred participants will be recruited via referrals from health professionals including maternal and child health nurses and general practitioners, as well as self-referrals from women who have seen promotional materials for the study. Women who meet inclusion criteria (infant aged <12 months, women 18+ years of age) will complete the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR Axis I Disorders. Those with a clinical diagnosis of current major or minor depressive disorder and who do not meet exclusion criteria (that is, currently receiving treatment for depression, significant difficulty with English, medium to high suicide risk, current self-harm, current substance abuse, current post-traumatic stress disorder, current manic/hypomanic episode or psychotic symptoms) will be randomised to receive either a 4-session mother-infant intervention (HUGS: Happiness Understanding Giving and Sharing) or a 4-session attention placebo playgroup (Playtime) following a 12-session postnatal depression group treatment programme. Primary outcome measures are the Parenting Stress Index (self-report measure) and the Parent-child Early Relational Assessment (observational measure coded by a blinded observer). Measurements are taken at baseline, after the postnatal depression programme, post-HUGS/Playtime, and at 6 months post-HUGS/Playtime.
This research addresses the need for specific treatment for mother-infant interactional difficulties following postnatal depression. There is a need to investigate interventions in randomised trials to prevent detrimental effects on child development and make available evidence-based treatments.
Trial registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register: ACTRN12612001110875. Date Registered: 17 October 2012.
PMCID: PMC4195961  PMID: 25277158
Postnatal depression; Mother-infant difficulties; Randomised controlled trial
16.  Rethinking Stress in Parents of Preterm Infants: A Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e54992.
With improved medical outcome in preterm infants, the psychosocial situation of their families is receiving increasing attention. For parents, the birth of a preterm infant is generally regarded as a stressful experience, and therefore many interventions are based on reducing parental stress. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether parents of children born preterm experience more stress than parents of term-born children, which would justify these interventions. This meta-analysis provides a comprehensive account of parental stress in parents of preterm infants, from birth of the infant through to their adolescence. Mean levels of stress in specific domains of family functioning were investigated, and stress levels in parents of preterm and term infants, and fathers and mothers of preterm infants, were compared. Furthermore, we investigated moderators of parental stress.
Methods and Findings
A random-effects meta-analysis was conducted including 38 studies describing 3025 parents of preterm (<37 wk) and low birth weight (<2500 g) infants. Parental stress was measured with two parent-reported questionnaires, the Parenting Stress Index and the Parental Stressor Scale: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The results indicate that parents of preterm-born children experience only slightly more stress than parents of term-born children, with small effect sizes. Furthermore, mothers have slightly more stress than fathers, but these effect sizes are also small. Parents report more stress for infants with lower gestational ages and lower birth weights. There is a strong effect for infant birth year, with decreasing parental stress from the 1980s onward, probably due to increased quality of care for preterm infants.
Based on our findings we argue that prematurity can best be regarded as one of the possible complications of birth, and not as a source of stress in itself.
PMCID: PMC3566126  PMID: 23405105
17.  Clinical Benefits, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Neonatal Intensive Care in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000379.
Joshua Salomon and colleagues performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using health and economic outcomes following preterm birth in Mexico and showed that neonatal intensive care provided high value for the money in this setting.
Neonatal intensive care improves survival, but is associated with high costs and disability amongst survivors. Recent health reform in Mexico launched a new subsidized insurance program, necessitating informed choices on the different interventions that might be covered by the program, including neonatal intensive care. The purpose of this study was to estimate the clinical outcomes, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using a decision analytic model of health and economic outcomes following preterm birth. Model parameters governing health outcomes were estimated from Mexican vital registration and hospital discharge databases, supplemented with meta-analyses and systematic reviews from the published literature. Costs were estimated on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Health in Mexico and World Health Organization price lists, supplemented with published studies from other countries as needed. The model estimated changes in clinical outcomes, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care. Uncertainty around the results was characterized using one-way sensitivity analyses and a multivariate probabilistic sensitivity analysis. In the base-case analysis, neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestational age prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs, at incremental costs per infant of US$11,400, US$9,500, and US$3,000, respectively, compared to an alternative of no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks were US$1,200, US$650, and US$240, per DALY averted, respectively. The findings were robust to variation in parameter values over wide ranges in sensitivity analyses.
Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for neonatal intensive care imply very high value for money on the basis of conventional benchmarks for cost-effectiveness analysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother). In developed countries and some middle-income countries such as Mexico, improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal intensive care) mean that more preterm babies survive now than in the past. Nevertheless, preterm birth is still a major cause of infant death worldwide that challenges attainment of Target 5 of Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds of the 1990 rate by 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, aim to reduce world poverty). Furthermore, many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, or learning difficulties. The severity of these disabilities and their long-term costs to families and to society depend on the baby's degree of prematurity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mexico recently reformed its health system in an effort to improve access to care, particularly for the poorest sections of its population, and to improve the quality of its health care. The central component of this health care reform is the System of Social Protection of Health (SSPH). The SSPH contains a family health insurance program—Seguro Popular—that aims to provide the 50 million uninsured people living in Mexico with free access to an explicit set of health care interventions. As with any insurance program, decisions have to be made about which interventions Seguro Poplar should cover. Should neonatal intensive care be covered, for example? Do the benefits of this intervention (increased survival of babies) outweigh the costs of neonatal care and of long-term care for survivors with disabilities? In other words, is neonatal intensive care cost-effective? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by estimating the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers built a decision analytic model, a mathematical model that combines evidence on the outcomes and costs of alternative treatments to help inform decisions about health care policy. They gathered data about the health outcomes of preterm births in Mexico from registers of births and deaths and from hospital discharge databases, and estimated the costs of neonatal intensive care and long-term care for disabled survivors using data from the Mexican Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. They then applied their model, which estimates changes in parameters such as life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a year of healthy life), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; the additional cost expended for each DALY averted) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care, to a group of 2 million infants. Neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestation prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs at incremental costs of US$11,000, US$10,000, and US$3000, respectively, compared to no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care for babies born at these times were US$1200, US$700, and US$300 per DALY averted, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Interventions with ICERs of less than a country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are highly cost-effective; those with ICERs of 1–3 times the per capita GDP are potentially cost-effective. Mexico's per capita GDP in 2005 was approximately US$8,200. Thus, neonatal intensive care could provide exceptional value for money in Mexico (and maybe in other middle-income countries), even for very premature babies. The accuracy of these findings inevitably depends on the assumptions used to build the decision analytic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but the findings were little changed by a wide range of alterations that the researchers made to the model. Importantly, however, this cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on health and economic consequences of different intervention choices, and does not capture all aspects of well-being. Decisions regarding neonatal intensive care will need to be based on a full consideration of all relevant factors, including ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness analyses should continue to be updated as new data emerge on health outcomes and costs associated with neonatal intensive care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health (some information in several languages)
A PLoS Medicine Policy Forum by Núria Homedes and Antonio Ugalde discusses health care reforms in Mexico
PMCID: PMC3001895  PMID: 21179496
18.  Admission to day stay early parenting program is associated with improvements in mental health and infant behaviour: A prospective cohort study 
Australia’s Early Parenting Services support families and intervene early in mental health problems in parents. The Victorian Early Parenting Strategy, a platform for government policy recommended a stronger evidence base for early parenting services. Tweddle Child and Family Health Service (TCFHS) is a not-for-profit public sector early parenting centre, which provides residential, day stay, home visiting and outreach programs. This study aimed i) to examine the health, social circumstances and presenting needs of clients attending the Tweddle Day Stay Program (DSP) with infants under 12 months old and ii) to assess the parent mental health and infant behaviour outcomes and the factors associated with program success.
A cohort of clients was recruited prior to admission and followed-up 8 weeks after discharge. Data were collected using standardised measures in a study specific questionnaire at baseline, participant’s Tweddle records and a follow-up telephone interview. Health, social circumstances and presenting needs of clients were described. Changes in parents’ symptoms of depression and infants’ sleep and settling between admission and follow-up were calculated. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine factors associated with changes in primary outcomes.
Of the total 162 clients who were eligible and invited to participate, 115 (72%) were recruited. Parents admitted to the DSP had worse general self-reported physical and mental health than community samples. Infants of DSP participants were no more likely to be premature or have low birth weight, but significantly more unsettled than other community samples. Participants’ mental health and their infants’ behaviours were significantly improved after DSP admission. In multivariate analysis, higher depression score at baseline and greater educational attainment were significantly associated with improvements in parents’ mental health. Worse unsettled infant behaviours and longer time between discharge and follow up were significantly associated with improvements in infant sleep and settling.
Tweddle DSPs appear to respond effectively to the needs of families presenting with substantial physical and emotional health morbidity and a range of vulnerabilities by treating parental mental health and infant behaviour problems together. DSPs offer important potential benefits for prevention of more serious family problems and consequent health care cost savings.
PMCID: PMC3464700  PMID: 22889314
Parenting; Infants; Mental health; Health services
19.  First steps: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of the Group Family Nurse Partnership (gFNP) program compared to routine care in improving outcomes for high-risk mothers and their children and preventing abuse 
Trials  2013;14:285.
Evidence from the USA suggests that the home-based Family Nurse Partnership program (FNP), extending from early pregnancy until infants are 24 months, can reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect throughout childhood. FNP is now widely available in the UK. A new variant, Group Family Nurse Partnership (gFNP) offers similar content but in a group context and for a shorter time, until infants are 12 months old. Each group comprises 8 to 12 women with similar expected delivery dates and their partners. Its implementation has been established but there is no evidence of its effectiveness.
The study comprises a multi-site randomized controlled trial designed to identify the benefits of gFNP compared to standard care. Participants (not eligible for FNP) must be either aged < 20 years at their last menstrual period (LMP) with one or more previous live births, or aged 20 to 24 at LMP with low educational qualifications and no previous live births. ‘Low educational qualifications’ is defined as not having both Maths and English Language GCSE at grade C or higher or, if they have both, no more than four in total at grade C or higher. Exclusions are: under 20 years and previously received home-based FNP and, in either age group, severe psychotic mental illness or not able to communicate in English. Consenting women are randomly allocated (minimized by site and maternal age group) when between 10 and 16 weeks pregnant to either to the 44 session gFNP program or to standard care after the collection of baseline information. Researchers are blind to group assignment.
The primary outcomes at 12 months are child abuse potential based on the revised Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory and parent/infant interaction coded using the CARE Index based on a video-taped interaction. Secondary outcomes are maternal depression, parenting stress, health related quality of life, social support, and use of services.
This is the first study of the effectiveness of gFNP in the UK. Results should inform decision-making about its delivery alongside universal services, potentially enabling a wider range of families to benefit from the FNP curriculum and approach to supporting parenting.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3846406  PMID: 24011061
Early intervention; Child abuse; Nurse; Young parents
20.  Supporting-emotional needs of Iranian parents with premature infants admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units 
Background: Having an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a stressful and painful experience. Unlike to normal births, this birth is associated with admission and separation of infant from parents. The aim of this study was to compile the supporting-emotional needs of Iranian parents who have a premature infant admitted in (NICU).
Methods: This study was performed using qualitative research approach. Twelve participants including 9 parents whose infant had been hospitalized in NICU; two nurses and one physician were also selected for sampling purposes. Data were gathered using semi-structured interview. Data were analyzed by inductive content analysis approach.
Results: Four subcategories emerged from data analysis expressed supporting-emotional needs of parents of premature infants admitted in NICU. These subcategories were: Need for interaction with infant, Need to medical team’s empathy, need to exchange support with spouse, and Need to get help from others.
Conclusion: In order to develop mutual bonding with infant and attain parental roles, parents need to be close their neonate, also receive empathy and support to find a way to meet their needs. Participants in this study announced that resolving these needs can help parents to feel more confidence in infant's care and reduce their negative feelings.
PMCID: PMC4219882  PMID: 25405119
Emotions; Parents; Premature infant; Content; Neonatal intensive care unit
21.  Physical Aggression During Early Childhood: Trajectories and Predictors 
Pediatrics  2004;114(1):e43-e50.
Physical aggression in children is a major public health problem. Not only is childhood physical aggression a precursor of the physical and mental health problems that will be visited on victims, but also aggressive children themselves are at higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse, accidents, violent crimes, depression, suicide attempts, spouse abuse, and neglectful and abusive parenting. Furthermore, violence commonly results in serious injuries to the perpetrators themselves. Although it is unusual for young children to harm seriously the targets of their physical aggression, studies of physical aggression during infancy indicate that by 17 months of age, the large majority of children are physically aggressive toward siblings, peers, and adults. This study aimed, first, to identify the trajectories of physical aggression during early childhood and, second, to identify antecedents of high levels of physical aggression early in life. Such antecedents could help to understand better the developmental origins of violence later in life and to identify targets for preventive interventions.
A random population sample of 572 families with a 5-month-old newborn was recruited. Assessments of physical aggression frequency were obtained from mothers at 17, 30, and 42 months after birth. Using a semiparametric, mixture model, distinct clusters of physical aggression trajectories were identified. Multivariate logit regression analysis was then used to identify which family and child characteristics, before 5 months of age, predict individuals on a high-level physical aggression trajectory from 17 to 42 months after birth.
Three trajectories of physical aggression were identified. The first was composed of children who displayed little or no physical aggression. These individuals were estimated to account for ~28% of the sample. The largest group, estimated at ~58% of the sample, followed a rising trajectory of modest aggression. Finally, a group, estimated to comprise ~14% of the sample, followed a rising trajectory of high physical aggression. Best predictors before or at birth of the high physical aggression trajectory group, controlling for the levels of the other risk factors, were having young siblings (odds ratio [OR]: 4.00; confidence interval [CI]: 2.2–7.4), mothers with high levels of antisocial behavior before the end of high school (OR: 3.1; CI: 1.1–8.6), mothers who started having children early (OR: 3.1; CI: 1.4–6.8), families with low income (OR: 2.6; CI: 1.3–5.2), and mothers who smoked during pregnancy (OR: 2.2; CI: 1.1–4.1). Best predictors at 5 months of age were mothers’ coercive parenting behavior (OR: 2.3; CI: 1.1–4.7) and family dysfunction (OR: 2.2; CI: 1.2–4.1). The OR for a high-aggression trajectory was 10.9 for children whose mother reported both high levels of antisocial behavior and early childbearing.
Most children have initiated the use of physical aggression during infancy, and most will learn to use alternatives in the following years before they enter primary school. Humans seem to learn to regulate the use of physical aggression during the preschool years. Those who do not, seem to be at highest risk of serious violent behavior during adolescence and adulthood. Results from the present study indicate that children who are at highest risk of not learning to regulate physical aggression in early childhood have mothers with a history of antisocial behavior during their school years, mothers who start childbearing early and who smoke during pregnancy, and parents who have low income and have serious problems living together. All of these variables are relatively easy to measure during pregnancy. Preventive interventions should target families with high-risk profiles on these variables. Experiments with such programs have shown long-term impacts on child abuse and child antisocial behavior. However, these impacts were not observed in families with physical violence. The problem may be that the prevention programs that were provided did not specifically target the parents’ control over their physical aggression and their skills in teaching their infant not to be physically aggressive. Most intervention programs to prevent youth physical aggression have targeted school-age children. If children normally learn not to be physically aggressive during the preschool years, then one would expect that interventions that target infants who are at high risk of chronic physical aggression would have more of an impact than interventions 5 to 10 years later, when physical aggression has become a way of life.
PMCID: PMC3283570  PMID: 15231972 CAMSID: cams2126
physical aggression; early childhood; trajectories; predictors
22.  Congenital diaphragmatic hernia in the preterm infant 
Surgery  2010;148(2):404-410.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) remains a significant cause of death in newborns. With advances in neonatal critical care and ventilation strategies, survival in the term infant now exceeds 80% in some centers. Although prematurity is a significant risk factor for morbidity and mortality in most neonatal diseases, its associated risk with infants with CDH has been described poorly. We sought to determine the impact of prematurity on survival using data from the Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Registry (CDHR).
Prospectively collected data from live-born infants with CDH were analyzed from the CDHR from January 1995 to July 2009. Preterm infants were defined as <37 weeks estimated gestational age at birth. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis were performed.
During the study period, 5,069 infants with CDH were entered in the registry. Of the 5,022 infants with gestational age data, there were 3,895 term infants (77.6%) and 1,127 preterm infants (22.4%). Overall survival was 68.7%. A higher percentage of term infants were treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) (33% term vs 25.6% preterm). Preterm infants had a greater percentage of chromosomal abnormalities (4% term vs 8.1% preterm) and major cardiac anomalies (6.1% term vs 11.8% preterm). Also, a significantly higher percentage of term infants had repair of the hernia (86.3% term vs 69.4% preterm). Survival for infants that underwent repair was high in both groups (84.6% term vs 77.2% preterm). Survival decreased with decreasing gestational age (73.1% term vs 53.5% preterm). The odds ratio (OR) for death among preterm infants adjusted for patch repair, ECMO, chromosomal abnormalities, and major cardiac anomalies was OR 1.68 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.34–2.11).
Although outcomes for preterm infants are clearly worse than in the term infant, more than 50% of preterm infants still survived. Preterm infants with CDH remain a high-risk group. Although ECMO may be of limited value in the extremely premature infant with CDH, most preterm infants that live to undergo repair will survive. Prematurity should not be an independent factor in the treatment strategies of infants with CDH.
PMCID: PMC3097021  PMID: 20471048
23.  Factors associated with weaning in full term and preterm infants 
Background: The optimal age for the introduction of solid foods (weaning) in infants is poorly researched yet may have implications for both short and longer term health. Many parents do not comply with current guidelines.
Objective: To determine and compare the age at weaning in term appropriate size for gestational age (AGA), small for gestational age (SGA), and preterm infants, and factors associated with weaning age in these groups.
Design: Data from > 2000 infants from seven prospective randomised trails conducted between 1990 and 1997 were used to address the objectives.
Results: Most infants, term AGA, SGA, or preterm, received solids before 4 months of age. Only 2% of term infants were exclusively breast fed to 6 months of age. Formula fed infants received solids on average two weeks earlier than breast fed infants. Preterm infants were significantly more likely, and term SGA infants less likely, to receive solids at both 6 and 12 weeks after term than term AGA infants. Weight at 6 weeks of age was a stronger predictor of earlier weaning than either birth weight or weight gain from birth to 6 weeks in term infants. In preterm infants, formula feeding and maternal smoking were associated with earlier weaning.
Conclusions: Infants born in the mid 1990s were weaned on average earlier than the 4 months recommended by the Department of Health. Earlier weaning was associated with less positive health behaviours. Further research is required to provide evidence based weaning guidelines, including specific advice for SGA and preterm infants, and to investigate longer term consequences of weaning practices.
PMCID: PMC1721589  PMID: 12819161
24.  Primary Care Triple P for parents of NICU graduates with behavioral problems: a randomized, clinical trial using observations of parent–child interaction 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14(1):305.
Preterm-born or asphyxiated term-born children show more emotional and behavioral problems at preschool age than term-born children without a medical condition. It is uncertain whether parenting intervention programs aimed at the general population, are effective in this specific group. In earlier findings from the present trial, Primary Care Triple P was not effective in reducing parent-reported child behavioral problems. However, parenting programs claim to positively change child behavior through enhancement of the parent–child interaction. Therefore, we investigated whether Primary Care Triple P is effective in improving the quality of parent–child interaction and increasing the application of trained parenting skills in parents of preterm-born or asphyxiated term-born preschoolers with behavioral problems.
For this pragmatic, open randomized clinical trial, participants were recruited from a cohort of infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care units of two Dutch hospitals. Children aged 2–5 years, with a gestational age <32 weeks and/or birth weight <1500 g and children with a gestational age 37–42 weeks and perinatal asphyxia were included. After screening for a t-score ≥60 on the Child Behavior Checklist, children were randomly assigned to Primary Care Triple P (n = 34) or a wait-list control group (n = 33). Trial outcomes were the quality of parent–child interaction and the application of trained parenting skills, both scored from structured observation tasks.
There was no effect of the intervention on either of the observational outcome measures at the 6-month trial endpoint.
Primary Care Triple P, is not effective in improving the quality of parent–child interaction nor does it increase the application of trained parenting skills in parents of preterm-born or asphyxiated term-born children with behavioral problems. Further research should focus on personalized care for these parents, with an emphasis on psychological support to reduce stress and promote self-regulation.
Trial registration
Netherlands National Trial Register NTR2179. Registered 26 January 2010.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12887-014-0305-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4273431  PMID: 25495747
Primary Care Triple P; Parenting intervention; Preterm birth; Perinatal asphyxia; RCT; Parent–child interaction; Positive parenting skills
25.  Parental post-traumatic reactions after premature birth: implications for sleeping and eating problems in the infant 
Background: Progress in perinatal medicine has made it possible to increase the survival of very or extremely low birthweight infants. Developmental outcomes of surviving preterm infants have been analysed at the paediatric, neurological, cognitive, and behavioural levels, and a series of perinatal and environmental risk factors have been identified. The threat to the child's survival and invasive medical procedures can be very traumatic for the parents. Few empirical reports have considered post-traumatic stress reactions of the parents as a possible variable affecting a child's outcome. Some studies have described sleeping and eating problems as related to prematurity; these problems are especially critical for the parents.
Objective: To examine the effects of post-traumatic reactions of the parents on sleeping and eating problems of the children.
Design: Fifty families with a premature infant (25–33 gestation weeks) and a control group of 25 families with a full term infant participated in the study. Perinatal risks were evaluated during the hospital stay. Mothers and fathers were interviewed when their children were 18 months old about the child's problems and filled in a perinatal post-traumatic stress disorder questionnaire (PPQ).
Results: The severity of the perinatal risks only partly predicts a child's problems. Independently of the perinatal risks, the intensity of the post-traumatic reactions of the parents is an important predictor of these problems.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that the parental response to premature birth mediates the risks of later adverse outcomes. Preventive intervention should be promoted.
PMCID: PMC1721611  PMID: 12937044

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