WVU Medicine Children’s recognizes Prematurity Awareness Month

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Medicine Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) went purple on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in honor of World Prematurity Day and Prematurity Awareness Month.

Carson G. Hindman, son of Renee Hindman and Jeremy Luff of Wheeling, was born at 29 weeks gestation. He is pictured wearing a onesie designed by the WVU Medicine Children’s NICU team in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.

Premature birth occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and it is the number one cause of death of babies in the United States. According to the March of Dimes, 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the U.S. What triggers preterm delivery is unknown in approximately half of the cases.

Nationally, the preterm birth rate is 10 percent, meaning that one in 10 babies is born too soon. In West Virginia, the rate is close to 12 percent.

An average of 750 infants (some weighing less than 2 pounds) are admitted to the WVU Medicine Children’s NICU each year, and many of them are preterm. These babies stay from a week to more than 300 days, and many require breathing support or surgery in the first weeks of life.

Former preterm infants are at risk for long-term health conditions, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness, and hearing loss. NICUs across the country work to reduce the risk of these complications during the NICU stay and beyond through developmental follow-up care that links NICU graduates with services like West Virginia Birth to Three.

“Fortunately, with the excellent care these babies receive, the majority leave the NICU happy and healthy,” Autumn Kiefer, M.D., chief of Neonatology at WVU Medicine and mother of triplet WVU Medicine Children's NICU graduates. “I feel forever changed as a physician to have lived the ups and downs of prematurity through my children. The professionalism, skill, and compassion of everyone on our NICU team carried my family through a nearly two-month hospital stay. Many of my colleagues have personal experiences with NICU care as well, whether they themselves, their child, or grandchild were in the NICU. Mothers and families should know that when and if they need us, our team is here for them, and we understand the unique mix of joy and stress that families experience during a NICU stay.” 

To learn more about Prematurity Awareness Month, visit https://www.marchofdimes.org/prematurity-awareness-month.aspx.To learn more about WVU Medicine Children’s, visit Childrens.WVUMedicine.org.