Tough Questions, Hard Answers: When Babies Are Born Too Soon

Monday, August 09, 2010

premature baby, hands (flickr: Matt Davis)

One in eight babies in the U.S. is born prematurely. In the best case scenarios, these tiny infants grow up to live healthy lives, and maybe even become famous. Stevie Wonder, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were all born pre-term.

But in the worst case scenarios, their early days are defined less by potential future accomplishments than by the all-out struggle to hold onto life.

We talk with two people intimately acquainted with pre-term babies, and the tough questions and decisions that only doctors and parents in their positions have to face.

Pediatrician Dr. Sarah Sheldon is the mother of two boys, one born ten weeks early at only thirty weeks, the other born at thirty-three weeks. They are now five and three years old. And Madge Buus-Frank is a nurse practitioner who works with very pre-term babies. She’s also written about the limits of early viability in babies born ahead of schedule.


Madge Buus-Frank and Dr. Sarah Sheldon

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [2]

Madge Buus-Frank from NH

It is true. The entire healthcare team's primary responsibility is to the infant or child. And although we did not discuss this, there is both the potential for over treatment and for under treatment. There is an interesting study by Morse (Pediatrics 2000) that suggests that both obstetricians and neonatologists tend to UNDERestimate the potential for survival at very early gestational ages. This may lead to a reluctance to offer therapies (such as transfer to a tertiary center, steroids, and antibiotics) that have the potential to improve the infant's outcomes. And studies on parental preferences, as well as my own clinical experiences, suggest that parents are often willing to take risks (i.e. risk of survival with a high potential for long-term disability) that healthcare providers might not be willing to take.

Aug. 09 2010 12:11 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The physician's responsibility is to nurture and sustain the premature child as best they can.

Aug. 09 2010 08:02 AM

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