The Perinatal Follow-up Program helps infants who were cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit and whose mothers live in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island at the time of birth. The purpose of the program is to evaluate the long-term developmental outcomes for these children. This program is known in other centres across Canada as a neonatal follow-up program, or high-risk developmental follow-up clinic.
How we help
It is important for follow-up to continue for the first few years of life to assist families by providing them with information and support in order for their children to achieve the best version of themselves. It’s equally important to understand the consequences of the early birth experiences in order to help improve the care of pregnant mothers, and the nursery care of babies.
The Perinatal Follow-Up Program cares for infants:
- who are more than nine weeks early (<31 weeks gestation)
- who are less than or equal to 1500 grams (3 lbs 5 oz)
- with known or suspected brain injury at birth (including severe brain bleeding, brain injury due to oxygen deprivation at birth, and seizure activity)
- with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
- whose families have moved to Nova Scotia and who are referred from other follow-up programs
The program provides the following services for premature infants and their families:
- Provision of ongoing supportive care until age three
- Early identification of developmental delays and special care needs with timely referrals to appropriate services
- Provision of education and resources to families and health care providers (in hospitals and the community)
- Collection and review of data on the high-risk infants we care for, with the goal of improving care
- Compilation of data to answer specific clinical questions about high-risk infants
Program participation is voluntary, and follow-up is not designed to take the place of an infant's primary care provider (i.e. family doctor or pediatrician).
Members of the Perinatal Follow-Up team also travel to visit families who live outside of Halifax. The team travels to the hospitals in Wolfville, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Yarmouth, Amherst, Sydney, Charlottetown and Summerside. These visits usually take place in the spring and fall.
What to expect
During an assessment visit to the Perinatal Follow-Up Program you'll be seen by one or more members of our multidisciplinary team. Which professionals you see will depend on your child's needs and their age. Each member of the team plays a vital role in the collaborative care process for babies referred to the program. Assessments typically look at the following areas of development: language skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving skills, and social skills/behaviour.
With premature infants, assessments are done at the "corrected age”, or the time since the baby was due to be born. They’re usually assessed up to three times in the first year, twice in the second, and once in the third year. Visits range from 45 minutes to two hours depending on who you may see and the type of assessment(s) being done. The results and any recommendations that come from the assessment will be discussed with you during your visit.
Who you’ll meet
The Perinatal Follow Up multidisciplinary team consists of a doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, developmental associate, dietitian, speech language pathologist, and social worker. Below is a description of each discipline and what they offer to families.
Assesses your child's development, general health and growth. The doctor will share information and recommend any treatments your child requires. Most of the time a physical examination will be performed.
Meets with the family to obtain consent, review current resources involved with the family, obtain a health and nutritional history, and review any concerns. The nurse will also plan your child's follow-up care. The nurse, with the help of other team members, is there to provide support and answer any questions you may have about feeding and development.
Looks at your baby’s movement skills and works with the doctor to assess how your baby’s brain is developing. The physiotherapist will see your baby at every three to four month visit and again at the eight month visit. The physiotherapist can help you understand your baby’s unique skills and capabilities and give you activities to enjoy playtime together. The physiotherapist also makes referrals to other professionals as needed to make sure your baby is developing and learning the best they can.
Helps people of all ages to develop, keep, or recover the skills they need for the job of living. They look at your baby’s ability to use their hands and arms for play, and for learning to dress and feed themselves. The OT will see your baby as needed and may do a more detailed assessment at 18 months corrected and three years of age. They'll provide coaching and education and may refer to other services or therapists in the community where you and your child can work towards these goals together. Children with feeding difficulties may also be seen by the OT, together with other members of the team.
At the follow-up clinic the developmental associate can provide you with support regarding your child's sleep, behaviour, and other developmental concerns as you feel is needed. They may be the professional who formally assesses your child at 18 months corrected age and at three years of age. This is a play-based assessment which can help the team to determine your child’s strengths and any possible challenges. Your child's development and progress are reviewed at the time of assessment and referrals are made with parents' permission to other services when indicated.
Looks at the feeding and growth needs of your child. The Dietitian will assist in the assessment and nutritional management of enrolled babies/children who are at nutritional risk. The Dietitian works as part of the interdisciplinary team to develop nutrition care plans and provides nutritional therapy to optimize growth, development, and health outcomes.
Assesses speech-language development at the request of the parents or team members. The speech-language pathologist is available to discuss the concerns that parents may have about feeding and swallowing to determine if a feeding-swallowing assessment is needed. Parents can refer their child directly to NS Hearing and Speech Centres at any time for a speech-language assessment or a hearing assessment. A doctor’s referral is not needed. Find a Hearing & Speech Nova Scotia location
Provides support to families as they adapt to the needs of their premature baby. The social worker may see you during your first appointment and then as necessary.
Perinatal follow-up location
The Perinatal follow-up clinic offers appointment on Tuesdays and Fridays. These days will vary for travel clinics. Families will typically receive an appointment by mail approximately one month prior to the appointment. A reminder call will be made one to two days before the appointment.
When you arrive at the IWK, parking is available at meters on University Ave and South St, or in the public parkade off (of) University Avenue.
If you use the parkade, you will enter the hospital through the Goldbloom Pavilion where there is an information desk staffed by volunteers who can provide directions to our location.
The Perinatal Follow-Up program is located within the “Kid’s Rehabilitation Centre”. Take the blue elevators up to the 4th floor and follow the signs to the registration desk.
If you need further assistance, please call the Perinatal Follow-up Administrative assistant at 902-470-6737.
Below are links that provide helpful information on your preterm baby/child’s nutrition and development:
Please click the link below to open a PDF document or Website:
Your Baby’s development
Infant Formula: What you need to know
Constipation in Babies
Constipation in Toddlers
Guidelines for Feeding Your Baby 6-12 months of Age
Calorie Boosting Tips for Infants 6-12 month Eating Solid Foods
Feeding Your Toddler 12-36 months of Age
Calorie Boosting Tips for Toddlers
Iron for your Health
Ups and Downs of Feeding
Language building tips for parent tips
Language-building Tips for Parents of Young Children (hanen.org)
*All links are not added yet
Tummy Time Tools
Tummy Time for Play
Calming Ways to Position Your Baby
Carrying your Premature Baby
Safe Baby Wearing
Preemies and Standing Equipment (Jolly Jumpers, etc)
When should I expect my baby to sleep through the night?
How much sleep does my baby need?
What can I do to help my child have good sleep habits?
What is the "crying out" method?
Sleep in the Infant and Toddler
What is prematurity?
What is low birth weight?
What causes prematurity?
Will I have another premature delivery?
Questions and Answers