Less stress for child and parents30 October 2013
It’s a nightmare for expecting parents: your child is born prematurely, and has to spend weeks in an incubator covered in electrodes and wires connected to monitors. Doctoral candidate Sibrecht Bouwstra developed creations that ease the experience for both child and parents.
The chance of survival for premature babies has increased substantially over the past decades. And it’s a good thing, too, because the number of babies that’s born prematurely has seen a significant increase as well in the Netherlands. Reasons for that include the fact that because of IVF and the rising age of motherhood more and more twins are born. And unfortunately, premature, underweight twins are common.
In the Netherlands, babies born in the 24th week of pregnancy or later are treated actively, says designer Sibrecht Bouwstra. From that moment there’s a chance they survive, thanks to the current standard of medicine. Still, such an early start often has undesired consequences. “At a later age, premature children have a greater chance of developing learning disabilities and behavioral issues, for example.”
To prevent problems that may occur later in life it’s important a premature baby develops as well as possible at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). And that’s a problem, because not only does an incubator baby start off with an obvious disadvantage, but there’s a lack of supportive (physical) contact with its parents as well. The conditions – electrodes, wires monitoring its temperature, heart rate, and blood oxygen level – make that difficult. These circumstances cause stress in the child, causing an impeded development.
“Physical contact with a parent relieves stress, and has a positive effect on the child”, says Bouwstra. “It’s one of the reasons to perform so-called Kangaroo care, where the baby is transferred from the incubator to one of the parents in a chair to hold the baby skin-to-skin on the chest.”All stickers and wires are a hindrance, obviously, and the sight of an incubator baby is quite traumatic for the parents.
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