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$995.2K

Maternal and Infant Conditions

Seeking the best start for the beginning of Life

Although there are different guidelines/standards as to what timeframe constitutes ‘perinatal research’, it is generally focused on the health impacts during the period from 28 weeks of gestation to the seventh day of life. So much crucial development takes place during this time, and research is vital to understand ways to prevent, or mitigate the effects of adverse health events during this time.
5 Active projects

Why is it a problem?

Why is it a problem?

Stillbirth and fetal growth restriction in New Zealand

In New Zealand, around 3000 pregnancies are affected by fetal growth restriction each year. Pregnancies with fetal growth restriction have a high risk of ending in stillbirth (the loss of the unborn baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy or during birth). Babies who survive fetal growth restriction have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay – which is a delay in developing skills necessary to achieve developmental ‘milestones’, such as walking or talking. These babies also have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and metabolic diseases later in life. But researchers are
working on solutions

By the numbers — Cure Kids researchers helping reduce infant mortality

Supported by Cure Kids, Dr Christine McIntosh and her University of Auckland research team, developed the ‘Safe
Sleep Calculator’. The calculator allows healthcare staff to give individually tailored advice to protect against deaths in babies, and to target help to the 19% of babies at the highest risk from SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infants).

The advice and support given to parents and whanau includes breastfeeding advice, sleeping advice for the baby, and support on how to reduce exposure to smoking, drugs, and alcohol. And the impact? On average, one infant death will be prevented for every 310 families given this personalised and intensive support — an amazing intervention.

Did you know?

Each year, in New Zealand 3000 pregnancies are affected by fetal growth restriction

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO HELP?

A potential treatment for fetal growth restriction

Babies affected by fetal growth restriction carry an increased risk of stillbirth, as well as an increased risk for significant health issues later in life. But researchers from the University of Auckland are working to better understand fetal growth restriction and are testing new drugs on placental cells from human placentas donated to the study. Led by Associate Professor Jo James, the researchers hope to not only better understand the causes of fetal growth restriction, but hopefully offer a potential treatment.

Reducing brain injury in babies

When the blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to a baby is severely restricted during birth, there is a significant risk of death — or survival, but with a major disability. Known as perinatal “hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy”, or HIE, this is one of the most serious and life-threatening types of infant brain damage that can occur during childbirth. Currently, the only treatment for babies born with this condition involves cooling of the baby’s brain or body (called therapeutic hypothermia) — but this doesn’t fully protect every baby (most babies, just not enough). So a team of Auckland researchers are testing a growth hormone to see if it can further improve the recovery of a newborn’s brain after this treatment.

‘Sleep on side’ advice during pregnancy – a successful campaign to reduce still birth

We have supported a programme of research which has provided the evidence for the ‘Sleep on Side – Stillbirth Prevention Campaign’ since 2007, enabling New Zealand researchers to lead the way with these internationally significant findings. Recent results from a survey of pregnant women in the 3rd trimester showed that 86% of women had received sleep-onside advice. Also, women sleeping on their back was reduced from 3.9% in the previous nationwide study to 1.8% (i.e. two thirds of women who were supine sleeping changed to sleep on their side based on the advice). The survey of healthcare professionals found that 77% were aware of the risk associated with a sleeping-on-their-back position and late stillbirth. A great result.

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