I had first heard about the cooling blanket a few years ago when a friend of mine told me a story that could only be defined as a miracle, at least for an obstetrician. A newborn had the lowest possible Apgar score of 1 and did not die. Not only did the baby live, but it never had a seizure and appeared to be doing well. It was a jaw-dropping moment for me because the prognosis of an infant who is born with extremely low Apgar scores is extremely poor. This infant was given a cooling blanket, something I had never heard of.

A cooling blanket is given to newborns in an attempt to lower their temperature to 93 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 days and then their temperature is eventually raised. By lowering the temperature, neurological damage is minimized or prevented entirely. Newborns with low Apgar scores have a multitude of problems including respiratory problems and seizures. These babies and their families suffer emotionally as they wade through layers of specialists in an attempt to give their children a “normal” life. There is great debate whether these children were born with special needs prior to their mothers being in labor or did their brain injuries occur as a result of negligent care in the labor room?

A recent medical study looked at children who had received the cooling blanket as infants and the results are promising. Although some of the babies eventually died, others lived and at ages 6 and 7, do not demonstrate mental retardation, blindness or physical handicaps that are associated with low Apgar scores. Doctors now want to do further research and change some of the protocols. They want to lower the infants’ temperatures even lower by 1.5 degrees, keep them on the blanket for 5 days as opposed to 3 or do a combination of both to see if they can achieve even better results.

So pregnant moms, this is one more thing you need to investigate when selecting a hospital or physician. If I were pregnant, would I want to deliver in a hospital that offered a cooling blanket? Absolutely. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.