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Early years

17th Nov 2019

The vast majority of premature babies grow up with no serious health complications says study

Trine Jensen-Burke

premature babies

Well, that’s a relief.

Being a parent of a premature baby is no doubt extremely stressful for all parents. It is emotionally exhausting spending days and nights in the NICU, worrying and fretting over every little setback, and celebrating every milestone.

Many parents of preemies also worry about their baby’s long-term health, no doubt feeling like while one battle might be over when you get to check out of the NICU unit and finally take your baby home, there might be other hurdles to cross down the road.

However, according to a brand new Scandinavian study, there is some good news for parents of premature babies – claiming that some of those concerns about how being a preemie might affect your baby’s long-term health might be totally uncalled for.

In fact, according to the Swedish study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the majority of people born prematurely from the 1970s through the 1990s survived to adulthood with no serious health complications.

Researchers followed 2.56 million babies born in Sweden between 1973 and 1977 until they were 30 years old on average, including about 149,000 premature infants. Each decade, preemies’ odds of survival to adulthood improved, from about 91 percent of preterm infants born in the 1970s to about 96 percent of those born in the 1990s.

The researchers looked at data on babies born in Sweden from 1973-1997, 5.8 percent of whom were born preterm. The study then looked at the health stats of those people through 2015, when they were 18-43 years old, and examined whether they had any diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

And according to the results, of the people who were born prematurely, 55 percent were alive in 2015 and had no serious physical or mental health issues. That’s not much worse than the 63 percent of people who were born full-term.

“Our findings reflect the apparent resilience of preterm birth survivors in maintaining good health,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Casey Crump of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Reuters. “Despite increased risks of several chronic disorders, the majority can still have good overall health in adulthood.”