It would seem that premature children, born before 37 weeks of gestation, must live with the consequences of their hasty birth until they reach adulthood. To arrive at these conclusions, a group of researchers has studied the births, deaths and education-related data of more than one million Norwegians, who were born between 1967 and 1976.
According to the results of this study, premature children have a greater risk of dying during childhood, compared to healthy babies. It would also seem that they have significantly less chances of becoming parents themselves. In addition, mothers who were premature babies themselves also have an elevated risk of giving birth too early. Children born prematurely are also less likely to finish their high school education.
Even though premature infants are often followed more closely during their first months of life, this study suggests they probably also require a closer follow-up throughout their entire childhood and adolescent years, in order to react more quickly if and when trouble occurs, regardless of its nature.
Although these data confirm that premature birth can have long-term consequences, we must remember that the oldest children in this study were born in 1967. Since then, the level of care that is given to newborns has never ceased to improve. These days, most infants born after 32 weeks of gestation will only have to contend with short-term complications.
Many diseases can lead to premature births, notably gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, as well as the occurrence of stressful events. In approximately a third of all cases however, premature births occur without any apparent reason. Prenatal follow-up is extremely important in order to rapidly detect any anomalies during a woman’s pregnancy.