27 May 2013
With an increase in the number of babies born before time, Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital has started a centre for post-NICU brain development and workshops for parents to help them take better care of early-born children
In a bid to ensure greater care for premature babies, the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital has come up with a Child Development Centre called Small Steps, for babies once they are medically stable and discharged from the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Along with medical intervention to ensure the babies’ brains develop at normal rates, Small Steps will counsel parents on taking care of such children once they leave the hospital.
“In general, the brain development of a child in the womb happens between 30 to 40 weeks of pregnancy. Thus, in case of premature babies, brain development is still in process after they are born. They also require support for breathing, as well as nutritional support, which they would have been getting in the womb. These babies are also at a greater risk of infection. Their Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) blood vessels are still open, which puts their brain at risk of injury. At this stage, it is not just the survival, but the intact survival of the child that is important. All these issues, which are addressed in the NICU, put the child’s brain at risk of underdevelopment,” said Dr Sandeep Kadam, a neonatologist affiliated with KEM Hospital, where a similar centre already exists, and a member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. Pune has around 300 neonatal ICU beds in private hospitals and around 150 beds in government-run hospitals. According to Kadam, the beds are always full and do not meet the demand for the number of premature babies born. In Deenanath, 200-300 premature babies are born each year.
Small Steps, which was inaugurated on Sunday in Deenanath hospital, was the result of a study by Dr Suneel Godbole, a developmental paediatrician with the hospital, conducted over the past one year. In the study, 54 newborn babies were studied to assess their neuro-development, with a complete follow-up until they completed their first birthdays.
“Premature babies are at a high risk of faltering with respect to growth and neuro-development. With early intervention and proper follow-up, these babies can achieve normal brain development,” said Godbole.
“The centre will also help empower parents to enhance the potential of their children, so they can lead a regular, independent life. Small Steps will ensure aftercare and a better life,” Godbole added.
Parents’ counselling includes teaching them age-appropriate tricks to help the child’s brain development. The centre will also check the muscle movement in the child’s limbs, to help determine the motor quotient, and if need be, provide physiotherapy. There will also be a parent support group, where parents meet twice a month to counsel each other.
“The brain’s ability to adapt is high till the child turns one. The mother is the best person to provide stimulation, if she is taught how,” added Kadam.