- 2,000 babies die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the US each year.
- Incidence of SIDS declined 50% in the 1990s due to public awareness campaign about infants sleeping positions.
- There is no cure for SIDS, but new research provides insight into its causes and risk factors.
John and Amy, now divorced, were devastated by the unexpected loss of their infant son, Jimmy. At three months of age, Jimmy died suddenly in his sleep. Even after an autopsy was performed, they still did not know why he died. Jimmy was just one of the 2,000 newborn babies who succumb every year to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS is the leading cause of post-natal death in the United States. Sadly, this deadly syndrome not only takes new life but leaves shattered families in its wake. Because their baby’s death is sudden and without explanation, grieving parents often blame themselves. Such pervasive guilt can lead to depression and destroy marriages.
Yet, there is some good news. Research scientists like Dr. Judith Neubauer at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey are trying to understand SIDS in order to help new parents avoid this tragedy.
What is SIDS?
According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Diagnosed by a process of elimination, often after an autopsy, SIDS shows no apparent pattern between victims.
Not technically a disease, it cannot be cured. However, guidelines have been developed that are proving effective in reducing the incidence of SIDS. Consequently, guidelines are available to inform parents of at-risk infants, reducing the number of SIDS victims every year. Preemptive measures include putting the baby on his/her back to sleep, not sleeping with the baby in the same bed, and not smoking during pregnancy.
Researchers are studying a variety of factors to solve the mystery of SIDS. These include everything from brain abnormalities and respiratory infection to which side the baby should sleep on.
Dr. Neubauer has dedicated the better part of her professional life to researching the neurobiology of respiratory control, particularly as it relates to SIDS. Her team has focused on the ability of the rat nervous system to regulate hypoxia, or the lack of oxygen in body tissues, which is one possible cause of SIDS.
Following a different path, UCLA researchers found that SIDS babies had difficulty breathing during sleep as early as their first week of life. They hypothesized that the inability to control breathing is due to an apparent fetal defect.
Scientists like Dr. Neubauer are working tirelessly to prevent SIDS by identifying risk factors and causes. They are committed to a future without SIDS, a future where thousands of parents are no longer traumatized by sudden loss of their babies.
- Carroll, John. “Abnormal Respiratory Control Found in Infants Who Later Died of SIDS.” On SIDS, Suffocation, Asphyxia, and Sleeping Position. SIDS Network, Inc, 20 May 1996. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
- “Facts About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Facts About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) . SIDS Network, Inc, 2015. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
- “How Can I Reduce the Risk of SIDS?” USA. gov. NICDH, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.
- Kinney, Hannah & Bradley Thatch, “The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” New England Journal of Medicine, 8/20/09, pp 795-805.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Mayoclinic.org. Mayo Clinic, 17 May 2014. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
- “SIDS Training.” Instructor Guide. Indiana Firefighter Training System, June 2013. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.
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