Improving outcomes after premature birth

Research aims to improve developmental and mental health outcomes for families after premature birth

Associate Professor Karli Treyvaud’s research aims to improve developmental and mental health outcomes for children and their parents after premature birth.

“Over 24,000 babies are born prematurely each year in Australia. In addition to the difficulties that babies may go on to develop, premature birth also increases the parent’s risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress,” says Associate Professor Treyvaud.

Identifying the factors that increase or decrease the risk for mothers and fathers developing mental health problems is what Associate Professor Treyvaud has been investigating.

“Currently, little is known about factors that influence the risk for parental mental health problems after premature birth. Knowing what these factors are, and understanding them, is so important if we are to develop effective early intervention programs for children and parents,” she says.

“There is also more work that needs to be done to implement systematic and integrated programs that monitor child development and parental mental health over time. These programs also need to facilitate access to evidence-based early intervention for all families who experience premature birth.”

Associate Professor Treyvaud’s most recent work has been with the Centre of Research Excellence in Newborn Medicine.

“Working with the Centre’s Policy and Practice Translation Subcommittee, I helped develop parent resources on mental health after premature birth, informed by my work with the Victorian Infant Brain Studies Group.”

“Our research has also had an impact at an international health policy level in the area of newborn health and child development through inclusion in policy documents by organisations such the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund,” she adds.

“Our next steps are to continue enhancing, refining and evaluating our early intervention programs for families after premature birth, with the aim of improving developmental and mental health outcomes for both children and their parents.”

Find out more about the Department of Psychology, Counselling and Therapy. Visit the website and LinkedIn.