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Most 'Extreme Preemies' Grow Into Happy, Healthy Teens
Date:6/7/2012

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- The tiniest, most underweight babies emerge as teens who feel good about themselves, rating their health about the same as children born at normal weights, according to a new study.

The research, which tracked children who weighed less than 2.2 pounds at birth, found that 69 percent reported their health as good to excellent when they were teenagers. That was about the same rate reported by both a control group of teens who weighed at least 7 pounds as newborns, and the general population of adolescents in the United States.

While severely underweight babies do have more health problems and learning disabilities than other children, the study's lead author stressed that the research revealed how they feel about themselves in their teen years.

"There is this whole question of whether we should be keeping these very premature babies alive," said Dr. Maureen Hack, a professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University Medical School, in Cleveland, where the study was done. "It is important to consider how they feel about themselves, not just how other people feel about them."

Another key finding of the study was that the smallest children at birth tended to avoid risk more than their peers in adolescence. But those risks included dangers such as alcohol, drugs and friends who get into trouble, according to the research.

The study appeared online June 4 and will be published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

About 30,000 very low birth weight babies are born in the United States each year, and about 80 percent survive, Hack said. Risk factors for very low birth weight include low socioeconomic status, maternal high blood pressure, maternal infection and multiple births.

Very underweight babies born prematurely often have lung, vision and hearing problems. But their vision tends to improve as they grow older
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