Interview with Dr Dietmar Schlembach and Professor Umberto Simeoni on Birth and Transfer of the European Standards of Care for Newborn Health project

Photo Credit (left to right): Dr Dietmar Schlembach (Berlin), Professor Umberto Simeoni (Lausanne)

Where babies are born and how babies and their mothers are transported are of particular importance for preterm and ill-born babies. We took the opportunity to ask Dr Dietmar Schlembach and Professor Umberto Simeoni, the Chair Team of our Topic Expert Group on Birth and Transfer, some questions on important issues in the field.

EFCNI: What would you say are the most important topics in Birth and Transfer? 
Major goals for Birth and Transfer are on one hand the information and education of pregnant women about pregnancy complications and preterm birth. This encompasses pre-, peri-, and postnatal care.

On the other hand, obstetricians and midwives shall strive to provide best available treatment according to acknowledged standards, involving transfer of pregnant women to highly specialized centres and avoiding deliveries in suboptimal settings and promoting the use of antenatal steroids to accelerate fetal maturation.

Beside best medical treatment, professional care givers shall sensitively counsel parents (optimally before delivery) on standards of perinatal care and integrate parents into decisions and care.

EFCNI: Why are they so important?
Preterm birth is a serious public health problem affecting children, parents, families, and societies at large. Better information on risks and problems of and for pregnancy complications and preterm birth will help to establish preventive measures, enable better and timely started treatment, and thereby enables to possibly to reduce preterm birth rates and problems and complications of preterm birth. Centralization of perinatal care (for example as in Scandinavian countries) is known to result in better perinatal outcomes. Therefore, achieving this goal is a major contributor for better perinatal care.

EFCNI: What are the major challenges in Birth and Transfer in Europe?
The main challenge is of course the different medical systems throughout Europe. Different resources, different education, and also different mentalities critically influence medical care and interaction between professional care givers and parents.

Besides introducing European Standards of Perinatal Care it is thereby mandatory and crucial to educate all involved parties, to train medical staff, and to possibly certificate centres of excellence. Next to that, all parties must strive to raise awareness of Public Health Administrations in each European country for the topic of Preterm Birth, as also from a health economic perspective it is a goal worth achieving.

EFCNI: What is your wish for the future of the field of Birth and Transfer?
If we are allowed to have a wish, this would be that in the nearer future all pregnant women in Europe – regardless to the region they live in – will get optimal medical treatment during pregnancy and at delivery. Women with pregnancy complications – although numbers may be small – should be timely transferred to specialists and/or specialized centres allowing for optimal treatment involving pre-, peri- and postnatal care. Finally in this perinatal care, parents are closely involved.

View more: European Standards of Care for Newborn Health project