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Babies Born Only 2 to 3 Weeks Early May Face Development Delays
Date:3/30/2009

While risk to individual newborn is small, doctors should be aware, study says

MONDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Even babies born near their due date have an increased risk of developmental delays when they reach kindergarten, new research shows.

Once thought to have little to no risk of long-term problems, healthy babies born between 34 and 36 weeks' gestation (considered "late pre-term") have as much as a 36 percent higher risk of a developmental delay or disability when they enter grade school, the study authors said.

"The risk to any individual baby born two to three weeks early is only about 4 percent, so we don't want parents to be alarmed," said study author Dr. Steven Morse, director of Community Newborn Services at the University of Florida. "But, we did want to get the attention of obstetricians who have a tough job balancing the medical risks to mother and fetus. This study adds a little bit more to the risk side."

Morse said the researchers also wanted pediatricians to be aware that there's an increased risk of developmental delays because they're the ones who care for the children as they grow.

The findings were published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Most babies -- around 70 percent -- who are born early in the United States are born between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation. While the number of babies born at less than 34 weeks remained unchanged between 1990 and 2005, the number of babies born at 34 to 36 weeks rose by about 25 percent during the same period, according to the study.

"The majority of these are medically indicated births," said Morse.

Neonatalogist Dr. Jennifer Kloesz, of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that, while most deliveries between 34 and 36 weeks are done for medical reasons, "there may be some deliveries that probably can still be prolonged. We don't always aggressively try to stop labor at 34 or 35 weeks, and it
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