Learning difficulties risk to premature babies

Friday 13th March, 2009

According to a new report, babies who survive into childhood having been born after fewer than 26 weeks are at greater risk of developing physical and mental problems.

Babies born after just half way through the 40 week full pregnancy term are now being saved by modern medicine but at the expense of growing up with disabilities such as learning difficulties and poor mobility.

This latest report studied 219 premature babies born in 1995 and compared them to 150 children born at full term. Researchers found that two-thirds of those who reached 11 years-old suffered with behavioural problems and academic difficulties.

The viable limits at which babies can be kept alive when born prematurely means parents face difficult choices about whether to continue or withdraw care.

The issue is a controversial one with countries such as the Netherlands denying intensive care to babies born at less than 25 weeks (although this policy is currently under review). The UK ruled that parents must be involved in the decision however some premature baby units operate separate policies.

The problems a child faces when born prematurely are not obvious at first, especially with learning difficulties which take longer to emerge.

Nearly 1,300 babies were born under 26 weeks in 1995 and only one-quarter survived. Over 20,000 babies pre-term babies require intensive treatment that sometimes lasts for many months.



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