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Overview - Newborn Research

The motto of the Women's Newborn Research Centre is “Making the babies better”. To do this we are trying to give all babies, irrespective of their size and maturity at birth the best chance of growing into healthy adults.

Our big challenges lie with the tiniest babies, those weighing less than one kilogram and more than three months premature. Parents face the real possibility that they may not take these babies home and amongst survivors there are three-fold increased risks of problems with brain development, blindness and deafness.

In order to achieve improvements in these odds we are improving the care given to babies immediately after birth, through their time in hospital and beyond to the first critical years at home. Research in the delivery room is a difficult task because of the often chaotic and stressful environment. Nevertheless, we have demonstrated that it is possible to do high quality studies and discover new ways of monitoring and treating newborn babies.

We now know that babies experience pain and discomfort as much as other patients in hospital. We have developed better ways of nursing them, encouraging their parents to become involved in their care, and have found that these steps improve outcomes for both parents and babies.

Our long-term follow-up studies are trying to establish the role of magnetic resonance imaging of the brain in very tiny or preterm babies to predict long-term outcome, and to understand the causes of brain injury in very preterm babies. In addition we continue evaluate neonatal intensive care in the state of Victoria for babies either with birth weights <1000 g or gestational ages <28 weeks, and we also help to evaluate the outcomes for many perinatal and neonatal randomised controlled trials designed to improve long-term health outcomes for our most vulnerable babies.