Neonatal Services

Specializing Institutions

Neonatal healthcare refers to the provision of medical care for newborns up to 28 days after birth. There are three levels in neonatal care. Level I consists of caring for healthy newborns. Level II provides intermediate or special care for premature or ill newborns. Infants at this level may need special therapy, or simply need more time before being discharged. Level III, or neonatal intensive care, treats newborns that cannot be treated in the other levels and are in need of advanced technology to survive. Common diagnoses and pathologies treated in Level III include anemia, apnea, respiratory distress syndrome, hydrocephalus and more.

One of the most common issues with newborns is premature birth. The normal gestation period for humans is about 40 weeks. Any birth that happens before the due date, or before 37 weeks, is defined as a premature birth. The most common reasons for premature birth are a ruptured amniotic sac, a weak cervix, abnormalities in the uterus, diabetes, high blood pressure and poor nutrition.

The institutions and physicians at the South Texas Medical Center are at the forefront of care for newborns with critical or special needs. Not only can patients benefit from exceptional service and a safe environment during delivery, they can also take advantage of the family-centered approach the institutions at the South Texas Medical Center provide.

Neonatal Articles

  • Fishery mislabeling could mean more mercury than buyers bargain for

    By Janice Neumann

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - That Chilean sea bass from the local grocery store could have twice the methylmercury that's expected - if it comes from a region other than indicated on the label, a new study says.

    While fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is generally considered safe, seafood from regions with high levels of contamination are not. And researchers studying samples from U.S. retail stores found that many fish are indeed the species they are claimed to be, but not from the region claimed.

    "Chilean sea bass is already known to sometimes have high mercury levels," lead author Peter Marko, of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, told Reuters Health.

    "If women are pregnant or nursing, they probably shouldn't buy that fish, to be safe," he said.

    Past research has found that fish sold in retail markets is not always the species it's advertised to be. And that even within a given species, mercury levels can vary widely.

    Methylmercury, the type of mercury found in fish, is an organic compound that can be absorbed into living tissue.

    Pregnant and nursing women and kids have been advised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to avoid shark, tilefish, swordfish and King Mackerel because these species have a mean mercury level of 0.73 to 1.45 parts per million. The FDA's limit for mercury in fish for human consumption is 1.0 ppm.

    Normally, the mercury content of Chilean sea bass, also known as Patagonian toothfish, is 0.35 ppm, according to the FDA.

    In the current study, published in the journal PLOS One, researchers used sea bass tissue samples from retailers in 10 U.S. states. They measured the total amount of mercury in 25 of the MSC-certified and 13 of the uncertified Chilean sea bass samples.

    They found that fish labeled as certified had less than half the mercury (0.35 ppm) of uncertified fish (0.89 ppm).

    But when the researchers excluded the fish that actually belonged to other species and were not genetically sea bass, they found no significant difference in the mercury levels of certified and uncertified fish.

    "We then said, 'that can't be because certified is supposed to come from South Georgia, where the mercury level is low, why do we see such a difference in mercury?'" said Marko, referring to a fishery area close to the South Pole and known to have less mercury contamination than fish from waters off South American. "It's these fishery stock substitutions," he said.

    The researchers tested the DNA of the fish and found those from outside the MSC-certified South Georgia/Shag Rocks fishery had twice as much mercury (0.63 ppm) as those genetically confirmed to be South Georgia stock (0.31 ppm).

    "Regular mercury exposure is potentially dangerous to developing nervous systems, so this and other studies like it are of greatest concern to pregnant women, children, and women planning on having children," Marko said in an e-mail.

    "Our study demonstrates that accurate labeling of seafood - not just with respect to what species but also what country or region the seafood came from - is essential to consumers, particularly in the aforementioned demographic, to make informed choices at the seafood counter," he said.

    Marko pointed out that fish from South American waters can have two-to-three times as much mercury as fish from MSC-certified regions.

    Roberta White, professor and chair of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health in a phone interview the findings were another reminder that consumers need to be careful when purchasing fish.

    "What's really disturbing is how do people choose to eat fish that are safe?" said White, who has studied the effects of industrial pollutants on the brain.

    "Everybody wants people to eat fish because it is good for the brain and heart, but we also don't want them to be poisoning their children because they're pregnant," she said.

    White said future studies needed to focus on different species of fish and the genetics within species, as well as variations in neurotoxicants. Other contaminants in fish could also pose a health danger, including Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), which are synthetic organic chemicals, organic tin and different pesticides, she said.

    "As this article points out, sometimes you think something is safe because of the way it's labeled and maybe it isn't, but that's true of all our food," White said.

    "This is where you have to start, the simple stuff," White said. "I think what's important about the study is the public health message that we need to be careful about this and figure it out," said White.

    SOURCE: PLOS One, online August 5, 2014.

  • U.S. to propose birth control exception for religious companies -source

    By Caroline Humer

    (Reuters) - The Obama administration will ensure access to birth control coverage for employees of closely-held companies that object to contraception on religious grounds, proposing a new accommodation to health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act, a source familiar with the plan said on Friday.

    The move follows a Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed certain for-profit companies to refuse to cover contraceptives due to the religious beliefs of their owners.

    President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law requires companies to provide free birth control coverage as a preventive service included in their health plans.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had already provided an exception to non-profit groups with religious affiliations, such as certain universities or hospitals, in 2013. The exception requires insurers to cover the cost of birth control for employees of such organizations, separate from the benefits paid for by the employers.

    On Friday, it was expected to propose an extension of that rule to closely-held companies in rules published in the Federal Register, the source said.

    The rule is in direct response to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd, a family-owned chain of craft stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp of Pennsylvania. The two companies combined employ nearly 14,000 people. The accommodation is expected to impact at nearly 50 additional companies who have filed similar lawsuits.

    At the time, the justices ruled that for-profit companies can make claims under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was enacted to protect religious liberty. They had suggested that the government could extend the accommodation made for non-profit groups.

    HHS also proposed on Friday an interim rule for non-profits to lay out additional ways that these companies can provide notice to the government in writing of their religious objections to providing contraception coverage.

    The interim rule for non-profits is largely in response to a Supreme Court order in July, issued days after the Hobby Lobby ruling, that gave a temporary exemption to a Christian college in Illinois. It had said that the initial process for informing insurers of their religious standing also violated their beliefs.

  • U.S. EPA makes strides in air toxics but work remains in cities -report

    By Reuters Staff

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has made progress in reducing dangerous air pollution since 1990 but work remains to reduce risks for the country's most overburdened urban areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's top official said on Thursday.

    The EPA released to Congress its second report on integrated air toxics, citing "substantial progress" toward reducing levels of contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and lead since it launched an Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy in 1999.

    Air toxics, also known as toxic air pollutants or hazardous air pollutants, are pollutants that may increase the risk of cancer or other serious health effects, such as birth defects.

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy pointed to milestones such as a 60 percent reduction in mercury from coal-fired power plants and an 84 percent cut in lead levels in outdoor air among the agency's accomplishments.

    But she told reporters that more work needs to be done to understand air toxics better and reduce remaining risks, which are most prevalent in low-income urban areas.

    "There is more that we have to do and more that we can do," McCarthy said on a conference call.

    The report she cited highlighted six areas where the current EPA air toxics program must improve, including emissions data; ambient data in more areas covering more pollutants; better monitoring technologies; and research on health impacts of air toxics.

    McCarthy said the agency is focused on addressing environmental justice by recognizing that some of the most economically disadvantaged communities are most at risk of the negative health effects of air pollution.

    The agency will complete studies of air toxic pollution in the neighborhoods of South Philadelphia and North Birmingham, Alabama, to get better data that can help inform local decision making.

    "Environmental justice is the core of EPA's mission - striving for clean water and healthy air for every American," McCarthy said.

    For the complete 139-page EPA report, see:

  • California law aims to protect rights of sperm donors, surrogates

    By Sharon Bernstein

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - A bill aimed at protecting the parental and adoptive rights of non-traditional families in California was sent to Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday in an effort to close gaps in a state law that have led to at least one high-profile legal case.

    The measure by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat, would require sperm donors, surrogate mothers and the people with whom they work to have a child to fill out a series of forms detailing the rights and responsibilities of each person.

    "My bill represents an opportunity to have state law keep pace with the changes in reproductive technology," Ammiano said. "With a few simple changes, we can help families thrive without needless legal battles or expensive court actions."

    Legal issues around the parental rights of sperm donors have made headlines recently over a debacle involving actor Jason Patric, who donated sperm to a now-former girlfriend and is suing for the right to be part of the child's life. Under current law, sperm donors do not typically have parental rights unless otherwise agreed by the parties involved.

    Ammiano's bill would require people who use sperm donors or surrogate mothers to fill out a series of forms outlining the parental rights and responsibilities of the donor or surrogate before conception.

    The forms required under the legislation are designed to eliminate any gray area about who has the right to visit or care for a child conceived through in vitro or other non-traditional reproductive methods.

    The bill would also create an expedited adoption process for same-sex parents. The process is meant to protect families who move from California to states where a non-biological parent is not recognized under state law unless the child has been legally adopted.

    The measure also requires couples using a surrogate to spell out how they will pay for the medical expenses of the surrogate and the care of the newborn.