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Premature Birth Has Long-Lasting Effects
Date:3/25/2008

Survival, reproduction rates are decreased in those born early, study finds,,,,

TUESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- The effects of premature birth last long after a baby leaves the neonatal intensive care unit, a new study finds.

The risk of mortality is increased for years after infancy. And as premature infants grow and try to start families of their own, their own reproductive rates are decreased and women born prematurely have an increased risk of delivering prematurely, the study discovered.

"If you are a parent who has a preterm child, following the first year of life, the mortality risk goes down. But, keep in mind, it's still increased. It's not a cause for significant alarm because the overall rate of mortality is still low, but you need to keep it in mind and make sure you're getting appropriate medical care and surveillance for your child," said study author Dr. Geeta Swamy, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center.

Results of the study are published in the March 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Premature birth is a delivery that occurs before 38 weeks of gestation. About one in eight births in the United States is premature, according to Swamy. Sixty percent of babies born at 26 weeks of gestation have long-term disabilities, such as chronic lung disease, blindness, deafness and neurodevelopmental problems. For babies born at 31 weeks, that number drops to 30 percent, according to background information in the study.

Swamy said that while a lot of attention has been focused on the serious risks that premature infants face early on, most research hasn't looked at what happens as these babies grow up.

To get an idea of the long-term effects of prematurity, Swamy and her colleagues assessed the health of more than 1 million babies born in Norway between 1967 and 1988. The researchers collected m
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