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Very low birth weight linked to reduced quality of life in pre-school children

Babies with very low birth weights tend to have a much lower quality of life when they are three or four years old, according to a study published in the latest issue of the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Researchers assessed 118 children who had birth weights of 1500g or less and compared them with a control group of 170 born at normal weights to compare their quality of life when it came to physical, emotional, cognitive and social functions.

They discovered that the very low birth-weight children scored consistently lower scores on a scale designed to measure quality of life among pre-school children.

Their parents were also much more likely to say that their child had health issues, with 29 per cent reporting a current problem, compared with 18 per cent in the control group.

In general, children with low birth weight had poorer lung function, appetite and motor function than normal birth-weight children, as well as being more anxious, less positive and less lively.

Premature babies delivered before 28 weeks were much more likely to have a lower quality of life when it came to cognitive functions such as communication.

Longer stays in neonatal intensive care units were also linked to reduced social function. The researchers suggest that this could be related to higher stress levels in early life as no specific link was established between longer stays and reduced physical functioning.

The researchers also discovered that children with very low birth weights scored better on emotional and social quality of life scales if their primary caregiver had a higher level of education.

"Previous studies of very low birth-weight babies have mostly focused on issues such as death, illness, neurodevelopment, growth and cognitive ability" says lead researcher Dr Li-Yin Chien, Associate Professor in the Institute of Community Health Nursing at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.

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Source:Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


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