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Premature Babies Face Higher Risk of Problems Later in Life

Premature Babies Face Higher Risk of Problems Later in Life

Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingMedical advances have allowed doctors to save very premature babies.

Thanks to advances in perinatal care, eighty percent of very tiny babies weighing less than two pounds at birth now survive.

Little has been known about how these newborns fare as they grow older-- that is, until now.

Leigh Vargo was born fifteen weeks early.

Bambi Largo/Leigh's Mom: "She weighed one pound, six ounces. She actually weighed less than six sticks of butter, we figured out."

Today Leigh is 12, and diagnosed with a learning disorder, a condition linked to her premature birth. But her condition is minor, especially when compared to other extremely low birth weight babies who were part of a new study.

Researchers tracked about 220 babies born in Cleveland who weighed less than two pounds at birth. They followed them through age eight, and compared them to a group of normal birth weight children.

They found despite the miracles of modern medicine, these tiny babies grew up with serious problems - more than double the rate found in full term babies.

Maureen Hack, MB, CHB: "Emotional problems, learning problems, visual problems, hearing problems. Then the more severe problems such as difficulty in walking, talking, toileting, washing themselves, basic functioning of the child."

Chris Retajczyk, MD: "I think its a huge issue."

Dr. Chris Retajczyk is a neonatal specialist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

While he'd like to see larger national studies done, he says it's crucial to prevent premature births.

"It's a costly problem. Across the country we have almost half a million preterm births that are taxing our systems and we want to find out what the causes are and how to better care for these kids."

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