Even minor oxygen deprivation at birth can harm later cognitive function

Birth is a time of peril for the human brain, especially in pre-term infants. For vulnerable “preemies,” biochemical signs of reduced blood oxygen levels (hypoxia) soon after birth are associated with lower IQs and language skills. In 2001, premature babies were 12 percent of U.S. births – the highest level in 20 years, due in part to more multiple pregnancies, induced labor, and older mothers. The January issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA) reports on links among pre-term birth, risk for birth hypoxia and cognitive problems, and reveals how the risk threshold for brain damage in preterm babies could be lower than thought.

Artificial amniotic fluid aimed at aiding digestion in premature infants

Researchers report the first premature babies to receive an experimental artificial amniotic fluid appear to tolerate the solution, which was given orally in hopes it will help the infants’ digestive system develop properly so they can eventually handle regular feedings. Very-low-birthweight babies, some born nearly four months before their due dates often weighing less than two pounds, are almost universally unable to digest human milk or formula. In their first days or weeks they are fed intravenously, which typically causes their intestines to degenerate from disuse-making feeding even more difficult when they later graduate to breast or bottle.