Researchers take aim at early births
Matthew and Stephen Faigenbaum with Professor John Newnham. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Perth doctors say there is urgent need to reduce the rate of premature births, which despite their efforts remains the single biggest cause of childhood death and disability in WA.

The Women and Infants Research Foundation has been studying factors such as infections in the mother that could be contributing.

Foundation director John Newnham said twins were most at risk of being preterm, with more than half born too early, compared with 8 per cent of single babies.

"Most children born preterm can expect to go on and lead healthy and productive lives but many will suffer from disabilities including cerebral palsy, learning and behavioural difficulties and lung disease," Professor Newnham said.

"And sadly, some babies will not survive."

Matthew and Stephen Faigenbaum, of Coolbinia, were born 10 weeks early at King Edward Memorial Hospital 20 years ago and are lucky not to have suffered any long-term health complications.

But they battled to survive in 1994, with both needing to be on ventilators and suffering bleeding on the brain, septicaemia and kidney infection.

Now healthy third-year science students studying chemistry and physiology at the University of WA, they are giving up time during their summer break to work as volunteers delivering fundraising merchandise for the research foundation's Hug campaign.

Matthew said they wanted to do their bit because they understood first-hand the medical complications caused by premature birth.

Their experiences were also prompting them to try to get into medical school.

"We feel our interest in science and medicine has been brought about by hearing our parents talk of our premature birth and knowing what we suffered," he said.

"We'd like to do something to help prevent it for others."

To volunteer or donate go to wirf.com.au/hug.

The West Australian

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