Health Team

Preemies Face Risks as They Grow Older

Posted March 25, 2008
Updated March 27, 2008

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— When babies are born too soon, there is a higher risk for health complications. Many preemies grow up to be perfectly healthy, but Duke researchers found a number continue to have health problems.

Carla Ransom's baby, Alexandra, was born 7½ weeks early.

“She did have some problems with breathing and her heart rate – with what they call 'brady down' – and had to be on a caffeine drip for over a week,” Ransom said.

Duke researchers looked at how premature babies fare as they grow older. They learned some preemies face an increased risk of death into childhood compared with babies born full-term.

“Boys and girls born at the extreme premature range, which we consider 22 to 27 weeks, had a much higher chance of mortality, somewhere on the level of nine or 10 times higher,” said Dr. Geeta Swamy, with Duke University Medical Center.

Swamy and her colleagues analyzed data from about 60,000 premature births in Norway. They also compared men and women, who were born pre-term, on how many of them became parents.

“Men were less likely to reproduce if they were born prematurely as compared to women,” Swamy said.

The reason is not clear, but possibly health problems or diminished cognitive ability could make it difficult for survivors of pre-term birth to find a mate.

It is not the best outcome for some pre-term babies' futures, but Ransom wants to know so that Alexandra will get the medical help she may need as she grows.

“As a parent of a pre-term baby, the more information you have, the more comfortable you are,” Ransom said.

Duke researchers said more studies are needed to find ways to prevent premature births.

The preemie study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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  • baldy64 Mar 27, 2008

    My son was born 5 weeks premature, but weighted 6 lbs. 1 oz. He had a small breathing problem shorty after birth, but that was it during the 9 days he spent in NICU

    He did develop mild asthma at around age 7, and still has it. Fortunately it's not bad unless the air is cold or pollen is bad and he runs. Otherwise he's fine.

  • readyforgodswilltobedone Mar 26, 2008

    Yes this very interesting. My twins girls born at 27 weeks. Are very healthy and only had to be NIC unit for 3 months jus to grow outside my womb. The only development issue that they are experiencing at this time is Speech delays. Since they have had their tubes but in their ears in Dec 07, their speech is wonderful.... They are miracle babies for sure. No surgeries at birth or anything . 1lb 14 and 1lb 12 .


  • giftsjubilee Mar 26, 2008

    It would be interesting to know if the study is done only on singleton premature births or if multiples are included. Also if weight could be a factor when born before 38 weeks.

    As a natural process, twins tend to fair better when born earlier than singletons since nature has a way to speed up development in the eighth month. Now with the human technology and more higher order assisted pregnancies we are having more premies.

    I have natural occuring twins that were born at 33 weeks and spent three weeks in NICU only because they needed to be able to maintain body tempurature and to learn to drink from a bottle. The smaller twin (born just under four pounds) does have cognitive issues. The larger twin (born just over five pounds) has no physical or neurological issues.

  • RUSH_2112 Mar 26, 2008


    There is data from NC to study. My daughter was 12 weeks early (1 pound 12 ounces), and she goes to the special infant care clinic at UNC to monitor things. I know for a fact they track preemie's progress until age 2. I would like to see their data in a report.

  • Lissa13082 Mar 26, 2008

    Hmmm... This is interesting... I would be interested in finding out where I can get some more information on this as an adult who once was a preemie! It would be interesting to read up on the study...