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Ohio doctor says premature babies are average by teens

We have been told for years that the more premature the baby, the greater the risk he or she will have long-term health problems. Those babies that are born at less than 2.2 pounds, or "extremely low-birth-weight" babies, used to have a low survival rate. As medical knowledge has grown, however, about 80 percent of those extremely low-birth-weight babies will survive. In a new study out of Ohio, a doctor has discovered that they will not acquire new long-term illnesses when they become teenagers.

This does not mean that premature babies are not at high risk for illnesses or chronic health conditions while they are young. The study also says that "preemies" are not at risk for additional medical conditions; the early years are when most of premature babies' health concerns will develop. For example, preemies are much more likely to develop cerebral palsy.

Low-birth-weight babies are also more likely to have learning or behavioral problems and low IQs, than average-birth-weight children. On average, 75 percent of preemies develop some type of medical condition within their first eight years, as compared to less than 50 percent of normal-birth-weight children. Interestingly, however, the percentage of extremely low-birth-weight children with chronic conditions did not really change between eight and 14.

The doctor worked with others to check the children's health at eight years of age. Then, six years later, the doctor started following any changes in health after they turned 14.

Preemies also have notorious problems with lung functioning. The rate of preemie asthma is quite high. At the age of eight, 23 percent of preemies had asthma and eight percent of normal-birth-weight children. What is remarkable, however, is that the prevalence of asthma stayed the same for the preemies during the following six years while 17 percent of normal birth-weight children had asthma at age 14.

It is extremely important to avoid risky behavior that might cause a baby to be born prematurely. With the prevalence of childhood health conditions among preemies, it is important to do everything possible to protect a baby while it is still in the womb.

Source: FOX News, "No More Bad Surprises as Tiny Preemies Reach Teens," July 27, 2011

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