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Exploring the Factors that Impact Survival Rates for Preemies

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Researchers in the USA have revealed that many factors come together to determine the survival rate of babies born prematurely, especially those who have extremely low birth weight. Babies who fall into this category are normally those born between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation. These factors according to the report are:

  1. Gestational age
    This refers to how old the baby was in gestation before being born. Generally aggressive treatment is given for infants born during the 25th week of a pregnancy. Dr. Rosemary Higgins of the NICHD and co-author of the study said that it is not always easy to determine the gestational age of a premature baby as some babies may be as much as two or more weeks older or younger than presumed.
  2. Birth weight
    The study found that the lighter the preemie, the greater the risk of developing disabilities and not surviving. Birth weight is normally around 2.2 pounds or less than 1000 grams.
  3. Singletons
    Premature babies that were not twins or other multiple births tended have a better chance of survival.
    Babies whose mothers received antenatal steroids to aid in lung development. Antenatal steroids or corticosteroids are normally given to women who go into labor prematurely or are known to have given birth early.
  4. Girl babies

It was also found that girl babies had a more favorable rate of survival than boys when born between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation.

It was found that these factors also helped minimize the chances of neurological problems. Some of these problems include cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and impaired cognitive functions.

The findings from the study will be used as a guide to help doctors and parents decide whether premature babies should get more aggressive treatment to give them a better chance of survival. The alternative, where these factors are absent and so the chance of survival very low, the premature babies will more likely be given what is known as ?comfort care?.

The findings are designed to help doctors and patients decide the type of care and treatment to give to low birth weight infants. Comfort care refers to care that forgoes painful medical treatment given to preemies that have a slim chance of survival.

The study was published in the April 17th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


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