Extreme Prems

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Link

Medical science is increasingly confronting parents with an incredibly tough decision - what to do if a baby arrives extremely prematurely?

Advances in neonatal intensive care mean more, very premature babies are being kept alive ... 250 children are born in Australia every year after just 24 weeks in the womb.

Up to half ... now survived beyond three days ... but their longer-term prognosis was usually not good and a majority faced a life of severe mental and physical disability.

"We've got this amazing technology, but there has been little improvement in the outcomes for these babies," says Dr Green, adding they often face several disabilities including blindness and severe cerebral palsy.

"Some families are willing to take on everything, and that's fantastic, but some families are not - it's all about informed decisions.

"It would be the hardest decision they would make in their life."

In late 2006, a consensus statement was issued ... which states in the "grey zone between 23 weeks and 25 weeks and six days gestation ... it is acceptable ... not to initiate intensive care ... if parents so wish after appropriate counselling".

There is otherwise no law requiring these babies to be resuscitated and treated, and parents can opt to not do so.

... media reports of "miracle babies" often focused solely on survival without including details of long-term disability, which could unfairly inflate the expectations of parents.

... advances in intensive care would continue to improve the ability of doctors to keep these children alive.

Yet this did little to account for the weeks of development these babies had lost by not going even close to full term ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448