Premature birth still an issue in America, but hope abounds

How often is a baby born prematurely in the United States? Some Houston residents may be surprised to learn that one out of every nine babies experiences premature birth. Despite huge advances in medical technology, premature birth is still a fairly widespread issue in America and one that can result in damaging birth injuries.

Fortunately, there is good news: it appears that the survival rate for extremely premature babies is on the upswing. According to a study of over 34,000 premature babies, the rate of survival for "preemies" went from 70 percent in 1993 to nearly 80 percent in 2012. The babies in this figure were born between 22 and 28 weeks' gestation. The babies born the earliest actually had the highest increase in survival rate, with an improvement rate of about five percent.

Babies born earlier than 25 weeks often face great difficulty, with only about one-third of these babies making it out of their medical ordeal alive. Many who do survive experience birth injuries or long-term medical problems. Still, according to a researcher at the Emory University School of Medicine, each day of gestation can make a positive difference in the health of a fetus. Each week, moreover, can prove hugely significant when it comes to improving the outlook for premature babies.

So, what is contributing to this cautiously optimistic trend? The study noted that hospital infection control, as well as certain medications taken before birth, can be extremely helpful. Premature babies tend to have fragile immune systems, so infection control in hospitals must be top-notch in order to ensure safety. Overall, it takes a combination of effort from physicians, hospitals, nurses and other medical personnel to help pre-term babies survive. When standards of patient care are prioritized, that can be a lifesaver for premature babies and their families.

Source: CBS News, "Survival rates for extremely premature babies improve, slightly," Bianca Seidman, Sept. 8, 2015

Categories: Birth Injuries