We were in a position that not many people have the opportunity to be in – to use our situation to help research. Thea has avoided most of the complications she could have had. She’s done incredibly well.
- Clare Hammond, Thea’s mother
One simple intervention could prevent lifelong disability for hundreds of thousands of premature babies worldwide.
Baby Thea weighed 576g when she came into the world just over 10 weeks early – but her eyes were wide open and she was crying healthily as the obstetrician cupped her in his two hands.
Premature babies have never had such a good chance of survival, even when they’re born extremely early. Often they are born with as little as half a cup of blood volume, however in order to care for them many blood tests are required. Therefore a simple intervention called ‘placental transfusion’ routinely used in full term babies may be able to boost the blood volume of premature babies by as much as 10%.
Placental transfusion is when the doctors wait one minute or so before cutting the umbilical cord and encourage the blood from the placenta to flow back into the baby. In a premature baby, doing that could prevent bleeding into the brain, inflammation, serious infection, anaemia and other complications that can lead to disability.
Clinical researchers from the Kolling and their patients are participating in a large international trial which aims to use ‘placental transfusion’ to study what difference it really can make.
The Australian Placental Transfusion Study (APTS) is testing the value of the technique in thousands of babies born very early, before 30 weeks into the pregnancy. Very large numbers of participants are needed in trials like this to show measurable effects, and it is planned that more than 1600 premature babies like Thea will take part in the study.
“Placental transfusion is a simple intervention able to be used in many different settings which can potentially reduce death and disability in preterm infants worldwide,” says neonatologist and premature baby specialist Associate Professor Martin Kluckow.
Despite being born so young, Thea is doing well
and is looking forward to a healthy future, oblivious
to the part she’s played in research that could change the world.