In 1960, the terms ‘neonatology’ and ‘neonatologist’ were first coined in a textbook on newborns. In hindsight, that decade turned out to be the start of modern care for prematurely born babies. Since then, survival chances for premature infants improved dramatically: for 1-kg-weighing infants from hardly any to approximately 90% nowadays. In addition, due to ongoing research, many infants born too early now have good health outcome, although there is also a large group facing mild handicaps and a smaller group facing more severe handicaps. In the Netherlands, the incidence of all live births delivered preterm – that is before 37 weeks of gestation – was 7.3% in 2004. Infants born alive very preterm (<32 weeks) make up 1.1% of the 194.007 births in the Netherlands that same year. These very preterm infants spent on average 28 days on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In the United States, the current incidence of births delivered preterm amounts 12.8% and is thus higher than in the Netherlands. Moreover, the percentage is on the rise: between 1981 and 2005 it increased with 35% (Figure 1). Although we are aware of several factors responsible for this increase (see below), prematurity is becoming a problem affecting society more and more.

albumin, animo acids, fetus, fractional synthesis rate, mass spectrometry, metabolism, neonatology, nutrition, obstetrics, parental nutrition, placenta, pregnancy, premature infants, pretirm birth, proteins, stable isotopes
E.A.P. Steegers (Eric) , J.B. van Goudoever (Hans)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Sophia Children's Hospital (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Nutricia Research Foundation (Wageningen, the Netherlands)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van den Akker, C.H.P. (2008, December 11). Fetal Food - Preemie's Prerequisite? Studies on human fetal and neonatal protein metabolism. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from