Leading the Fight Against Premature Births

In the United States, one in eight babies is born too soon, translating into more than a half million premature births a year. Not only is prematurity the number-one cause of newborn death, but it also puts surviving infants at risk for severe health problems and lifelong disabilities, as well as societal costs of more than $26 billion a year. Stony Brook Medicine is the regional referral center for high-risk obstetrical and neonatal intensive care. Our clinical team is on the frontlines of the fight to reduce premature births and provide the most advanced care to babies born prematurely. Drs. J. Gerald Quirk and Shanthy Sridhar discuss the depth of resources Stony Brook offers the community — and why those at risk for premature birth are referred or transferred to Stony Brook.

How is prematurity defined?

A premature infant is a baby born before 37 weeks gestation (full-term is considered 37 to 42 weeks gestation). When an expectant mother develops premature labor that cannot be stopped, it is considered a high-risk birth, and typically she will be taken to a hospital that specifically cares for premature infants. For Suffolk County, and even surrounding counties, Stony Brook is where potential high-risk mothers and babies are transferred from other hospitals.

Why is Stony Brook the go-to hospital for high-risk mothers and babies?

Because we offer a highly sophisticated level of care with on-site board-certified obstetricians and neonatologists around-the-clock. We are a New York State Department of Health-designated Level 4 (most advanced) Regional Perinatal Center in Suffolk County with a state-designated Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) — meaning that we provide the most advanced care in the region for both high-risk mothers and the smallest and the sickest babies. Women who need to transfer to Stony Brook are transported by our maternal transport team. This team is specially trained in labor and delivery to care for the mother and baby with special expertise in the event the baby is born on the way to Stony Brook.

What are Stony Brook’s capabilities for labor and delivery?

Whether high-risk or not, expectant mothers give birth in one of our 10 new Labor & Delivery rooms, each with a private bathroom and pull-out couch so a spouse or other support person can stay comfortably throughout the labor. Our recently constructed Labor & Delivery Suite provides expanded maternity urgent care capacity and can deal with any type of obstetric emergency. In addition to creating greater comfort, security and privacy, this unit is directly connected to Stony Brook Children’s NICU. After delivery, all women then move to a private room with a private bathroom.

What does a Level III NICU provide?

Stony Brook Children’s new NICU has the latest equipment and technology. In addition, the NICU is the first in New York State with all private rooms for babies, which gives each a more soothing, individually controlled environment to promote healing and family bonding. The NICU care team includes board-certified and fellowship-trained neonatologists, many of whom are also leading researchers dedicated to advancing the field. They work together with a multidisciplinary group of physician specialists, including pediatric surgeons, the cleft palate team, and specialists in pediatric genetics, pediatric nephrology, pediatric cardiology, pediatric ophthalmology, and pediatric hematology/ oncology, among others. Other essential members of the team include neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, social workers, pharmacists physiotherapists, nutritionists and technicians.

What other resources does Stony Brook offer?

Our midwifery practice provides full maternity services and well woman care. Our mother and baby area and NICU offer specialized lactation consultants. And, the NICU holds a number of programs for parents and their newborns, including a March of Dimes® family support program, an infant apnea program, a parent-led support group, and other outreach and support programs. If you are likely to give birth prematurely, are pregnant with more than one baby or have been diagnosed with a pregnancy that will require neonatal care, you can schedule a pre-birth visit by calling (631) 444-7653.

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All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user's risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.