Survive to Thrive

BC Womens Neonatal Follow-up Clinic guides the care of premature babies at risk of developmental challenges.
Babies born too soon, too small and very sick face a long road to recovery. However, that journey doesn’t end when they leave BC Women’s Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. In fact, as they grow, some of these babies face a whole new set of challenges. That’s where BC Women’s Neonatal Follow-up Program begins its work.

Early intervention

Dr. Anne Synnes, director of BC Women’s Neonatal Follow-up Clinic, says the survival rates among very premature or sick babies have improved tremendously in the last 40 years. However, some of these babies face learning and developmental difficulties as they grow, or physical issues with motor function, sight or hearing. The Neonatal Follow-up Program, now in its 30th year, was specifically created to provide regular monitoring of children's growth, health and development and to provide family support as well as to collaborate with communities to ensure these children receive early intervention and the optimal healthcare they need to grow up to achieve their full potential.

Monitoring progress

The Neonatal Follow-up Program comprises a multidisciplinary team of physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, audiologists and psychologists/developmental counsellors. Together, they provide comprehensive outpatient follow-up services to BC and Yukon’s most at-risk babies.

Working alongside the Newborn ICU and other obstetric and perinatal programs at BC Women’s, the team monitors the progress of patients ranging from infants born at 25 weeks (or less) gestation to full-term babies born with serious complications.

Synnes and her team do routine sequential neuro-developmental assessments on babies at risk at four, eight, 18, 36 and 54 months of age. In some cases, children might even be assessed until they reach late adolescence. These visits include an evaluation of motor function, social development, language and learning ability.

Excellent outcomes

By regularly monitoring the children’s growth and development, Synnes and her team can make specific early intervention recommendations and therapy referrals to help address any potential long-term impairments their little patients might develop.

“The priority for us is to move beyond survival as our goal,” says Synnes. “It’s about giving every child the best possible chance for a full and happy quality of life.”

Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Women's Magazine.  Free subscription here.

Written by Nancy Grantham   - Photography by Brian Howell