Keeping newborns SAFE

Lisa Bailey and her daughter Isla-Marie Ranui as Dr Jean Du Plessis demonstrate the use of the pulse oximeter to monitor the baby’s oxygen levels
Lisa Bailey and her daughter Isla-Marie Ranui as Dr Jean Du Plessis demonstrate the use of the pulse oximeter to monitor the baby’s oxygen levels.
December 16, 2016

A WA-first initiative at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) is enabling mothers and newborns to experience the benefits of skin-to-skin care immediately after birth while keeping babies safe from suffocation.

Known as saturation assessment for early hours after birth (SAFE), newborns wear a tiny probe around their wrist which is attached to a pulse oximeter that monitors their oxygen levels.

The unobtrusive portable device sets off an audible alarm if the baby’s oxygen levels or heart rate fall to dangerous levels.

FSH Head of Neonatology Dr Jean Du Plessis said the aim is to prevent sudden unexpected postnatal collapse (SUPC) where healthy babies with no underlying medical conditions start to suffocate.

“The first two hours after birth is a higher risk period as mothers often want to hold their babies but are tired and the room is likely to be dimly lit,” Dr Du Plessis said.

“Continuously monitoring the baby allows for safe bonding and can give everyone involved peace of mind during an emotional and busy time.”

Research has shown that early skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, also known as Kangaroo mother care, is beneficial for establishing breastfeeding and helps maintain the baby’s temperature.

However, such care has been associated with a higher risk of SUPC that can happen in a matter of minutes leading to death or severe brain damage.