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What are we telling the parents of extremely preterm babies?

Journal title
The Australian & New Zealand journal of obstetrics & gynaecology
Publication year
Boland, R. A.; Davis, P. G.; Dawson, J. A.; Doyle, L. W.

BACKGROUND: Parent counselling and decision-making regarding the management of preterm labour and birth are influenced by information provided by healthcare professionals regarding potential infant outcomes. AIM: The aim of this study was to determine whether perinatal healthcare providers had accurate perceptions of survival and major neurosensory disability rates of very preterm infants born in non-tertiary hospitals (‘outborn’) and tertiary perinatal centres (‘inborn’). MATERIALS AND METHODS: A web-based survey was distributed to midwives, nurses, obstetricians and neonatologists working in non-tertiary and tertiary maternity hospitals, and the perinatal/neonatal emergency transport services in Victoria, Australia. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Estimates of survival rates at 24 and 28-weeks’ gestation were compared with actual survival rates of a population-based cohort of 24 and 28-weeks’ gestation infants, born free of lethal anomalies in Victoria in 2001-2009. Estimates of major neurosensory disability rates in 24 and 28-week survivors were compared with actual disability rates in 24 and 28-week children born in Victoria averaged over three eras: 1991-1992, 1997 and 2005. RESULTS: Response rates varied as follows: 83% of non-tertiary midwives, 4% of obstetricians, 55% of tertiary centre staff and 68% of transport team staff responded (total of 30%). Overall, respondents underestimated survival and overestimated major neurosensory disability rates in both outborn and inborn 24 and 28-week infants. Outborn infants were perceived to have much worse prospects for survival and for survival with major disability compared with inborn peers. CONCLUSION: Many clinicians overestimated rates of adverse outcomes. These clinicians may be misinforming parents about their child’s potential for a favourable outcome.

Research abstracts