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Being Born Premature Can Have Lasting Effects

Update Date: Aug 27, 2013 09:41 AM EDT

For premature infants, there might be several health complications that doctors must attend to immediately after birth since their organs might not be fully developed with proper function. Despite these complications, medical advances have allowed doctors to help premature babies bounce back. Several studies have found that premature children start off slightly slower in terms of physical growth when compared to other children not born prematurely but they catch up eventually. In a new review, however, researchers found that premature babies suffer from lasting effects that harm their overall wellbeing.

In this review, researchers examined previous studies that focused on extremely premature babies. The data was collected from nine studies that looked at infants born between 22 and 25 weeks during pregnancy. These babies were compared to babies born full term, which is after 37 weeks of gestation. The researchers looked at all of the babies' development and progress. They found that by the time the infants reached anywhere from four to eight-years-old, premature infants were more likely to suffer from some type of neurological impairment than full term infants.

The findings of this review added on to a pile of evidence that people who were premature babies have more health risks into adulthood. Several studies have also concluded that prematurity negatively affects physical health and mental growth. In a 2011 study, researchers found that prematurity negatively affected memory and attention span. This study also reported that premature babies had adult IQ (intelligence quotient) scores that were an average of 8.4 points lower. Another study found that premature children had lower math and reading test scores in comparison to children born full term.  

All of these different studies have found mounting evidence that prematurity can severely hinder development and lead to more complications in the future. These studies remind researchers that more need to be done in order to somehow prevent prematurity by helping the infant stay in the womb longer in order to develop.

A summary of the review can be found on TIME.

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