For boys born between 22 and 27 weeks' gestation, the risk of early childhood mortality (between 1 and 6 years old) was 5.3 times higher, and the risk of late childhood death (between 6 and 12.9 years old) was seven times higher. For those born between 28 and 32 weeks, the risk of early childhood death was 2.5 times higher, and the late childhood death risk was 2.3 times higher.
For girls born between 22 and 27 weeks, the risk of early childhood death was 9.7 times higher. There were no late childhood deaths in girls in this gestational age group. Additionally, in girls born between 28 and 32 weeks, there was no increase in mortality rates in childhood.
Those children who survived through adolescence didn't escape effects from prematurity. Men born between 22 and 27 weeks were 76 percent less likely to reproduce, and women born at the same age were 67 percent less likely to have children. Women born prematurely who did have children were more likely to have preterm offspring. No such effect was found for men.
"Prematurity may have caused issues that made them susceptible. Were they left with chronic lung disease? Were they left with cerebral palsy? There's a big belief that we're doing so great now, but premature births are still a big problem," said Dr. Peter Bernstein, a maternal-fetal specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Bernstein added that expectations for today's babies might be brighter because there have been advances in the care of premature infants.
Swamy agreed that the survival numbers may have changed for the better since the study began, but pointed out that the rate of chronic medical conditions could be higher now.
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