April 21, 2019  

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USM’s Children’s Center Continues Regular Follow-Up Program Amid NICU Awareness Month

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Sarah Myers, assistant director and speech pathologist at The Children’s Center, plays with a baby at the NICU follow-up clinic.

Currently, one in every 10 babies is born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation) in the United States. And thanks to ever-evolving technology and care, survival rates of babies born prematurely have come a long way. Thirty years ago, less than 25 percent of premature babies survived, while today that number has risen to almost 90 percent, including infants born as early as 24 weeks.

But once a baby has been discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and sent home, that doesn’t necessarily mean their fight is over. For some babies, their premature birth causes delays in development that require some extra ongoing care from specialists such as speech pathologists, physical therapists, and/or occupational therapists.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Children’s Center for Communication and Development not only provides such services at no cost to families, but also partners with Forrest General Hospital’s Neonatal team to provide monthly follow-ups for babies who have been discharged from the NICU.

September is designated as Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month. ​NICU Awareness Month is designed to honor families experiencing a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the health professionals who care for them.

“We are so proud to be part of the important work done at Forrest General Hospital’s NICU Follow-Up Clinic,” said Sarah Myers, assistant director and speech pathologist at The Children’s Center. “Families are often thrown into a whole new world of specialized care when their babies are born early and may feel anxious and uncertain about their child’s future. We can provide ongoing support during a critical time in their lives and make a lasting impact on that babies’ developmental success.”

And critical, it is. When it comes to developmental delays in children, early intervention is the key. The sooner a delay can be determined and treated, the better the odds that one will see progress from that treatment. And the NICU Follow-Up Clinic is designed to do just that.

Once a month, The Children’s Center and Forrest General Hospital provide developmental assessments during which they screen babies that have been discharged from Forrest General’s NICU. The babies seen at these assessments will come back roughly every 6 months (more or less depending on needs) until they reach the age of 2.

This is a wonderful opportunity in which parents can bring their baby to one location to be seen by a whole team of multi-disciplinary clinicians, allowing them to find out more about their growth, overall development, vision, hearing, language, and motor skills, while also receiving support and education when needed.

“Monitoring health and development is key in supporting preterm babies and ensuring that they get the best possible start in life,” said Terri Daniels, Southern Mississippi Neonatology Developmental Consultant. “The staff at The Children’s Center have been providing families with this invaluable information through Forrest General Hospital’s NICU Follow Up Clinic since 2001. To date, thousands of Mississippi’s most fragile patients have received expert help by Children’s Center clinicians.”