The birth of a newborn is a joyful and exciting time. However, sometimes, a baby is born with complications that require special medical care. Newborns may have difficulties associated with pregnancy complications, fetal development or related to labour and birth. Some of these newborns are at high-risk for developmental problems as they grow older.Fortunately, specialized care and advances in medical technology can help improve the health of a high-risk newborn and new mother. Babies have a much greater chance of surviving and having favourable outcomes than ever before.

Overview For Parents

  • Medical advances have allowed more newborns to survive into adulthood than ever before.
  • Brain development accelerates rapidly during the third trimester of gestation. Infants born early are vulnerable to altered brain development or brain injury.
  • Brain injury is most common among extremely premature infants who are born before 27 – 28 weeks of gestation, when the third trimester begins.
  • Newborn babies born at term may also be at high-risk for developmental problems if their brain didn’t develop optimally during pregnancy, or if the baby was exposed to a brain injury.
  • Current advances in brain imaging with MRI are making it easier to recognize brain abnormalities so that newborns and children can be targeted for appropriate supportive and protective treatment and early therapeutic interventions to maximize their developmental outcomes.

Overview For Clinicians

  • Early identification of at-risk newborns is important because it allows for intervention while the central nervous system is still forming new connections and reorganizing itself.
  • Early treatment is more effective in influencing long-term outcome than treatment that begins after the first presentation of neurodevelopmental disability, which is often around two years of age or even later.
  • Imaging studies should carefully examine the basal ganglia and cerebellum in addition to cortical and subcortical structures, as areas that are vulnerable to brain injury.