According to the findings of two separate studies published in the British Medical Journal, rates of serious disability are likely to increase and little progress has been made in improving the long-term health of extremely premature babies, and with pre-term births on the rise across Europe.
According to research by neonatal specialists in Britain, a decade of advances in medicine mean more babies born at between 22 and 26 weeks gestation manage to survive, but rates of severe health complications remain as high as they were in 1995.
“As the number of children that survive pre-term birth continues to rise, so will the number who experience disability throughout their lives,” said Neil Marlow, of University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health, who worked on both studies and presented the results at a briefing in London.
He said this was “likely to have an impact on the demand for health, education and social care services.”
The researchers also found a link between gestational age and the risk of disability with babies born earlier being more likely to have serious health complications at three years of age.