Will my premature baby have health problems?
The majority of children born after the 32nd week of gestation or having a birth weight of more than 1200 g grow normal and healthy. This chapter discusses some potential problems that can occur if your child is born less than 1200 g or if complications occur. Therefore, do not think that every preterm baby has to go like this. With promotion and therapies many development delays are balanced until school entry.
How good are our chances that no problems will arise?
The overwhelming majority, nine out of ten premature babies, grow up with no further health or developmental disabilities. The further the child is developed at birth, the lower the risk.
- Born at the 32nd week of pregnancy, the risk of persistent disorder is 1 in 50
- Born in the 28th week of pregnancy, the risk of a persistent disorder is 1 in 10
- Born before the 26th week of pregnancy, examinations assess the risk of persistent disorder (a serious vision or hearing problem, serious learning disabilities, or cerebral disorders) between 1 in 4 and 1 in 10, although there is also a considerable chance of one or more there are minor disturbances.
Differences in growth
Most low-birthweight children include peers in terms of height. Children of very low birth weight will probably be smaller than their peers for several years. While most babies make up for the difference in size - two out of three in the first six months - others remain small all their lives.
According to a 1996 study of 249 premature eight-year-olds:
- 11 of 12 reached the average size
- In the first two years the children almost caught up with the size
- Those whose birth weight corresponded to the month of pregnancy in which they were born were more likely to catch up in size than those who were considered too small for their age
- Twenty-four children with a serious health or development problem were the least in size.
Children who have suffered from chronic lung disease (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) as a baby are gaining weight slowly. Most of them catch up with their peers, but those who were very small at birth or who had particularly serious lung disease tend to be smaller and lighter.
It can be helpful to count the age of a child from the calculated cut-off point, because developmental stages such as smiling, sitting, running and talking can be delayed in relation to the weeks it was born too early - and maybe even longer, if the pregnancy was complicated. So you count on the corrected age.
A recent study, conducted with eight-year-old boys born before the 32nd week of pregnancy, states:
- For those who were found to be small at birth, the delay in growth was related to mental and physical development.
- For those whose birth weight corresponded to the month of pregnancy in which they were born, the number of weeks they were born too early was crucial to their physical development.
Development and partial service disruptions
Regular research has shown that a child with a persistent disorder should be treated sooner rather than later. IQ differences between low-birthweight children and others whose birth weight met the norm are rare. Studies suggest that in low-birthweight children the average IQ is about seven points below that of normal birth weight children. One study found that the risk of serious learning disability in children with low birth weight was seven to eleven times higher than that of children of normal birth weight. Attention Deficit Syndrome (with or without hyperactivity), facial twitching, awkwardness (dyspraxia) and speech disorders are more common in low birthweight children.
In premature babies occur more often partial performance weaknesses such. As read-spelling weakness, spatial, acoustic or auditory perception disorders or dyscalculia (calculation weakness) on. A timely detection by developmental neurological examinations saves your child a lot of unnecessary suffering through fear of failure and teasing. A timely diagnosis can also counteract with appropriate therapies and be discussed with the teachers prior to enrollment so that regulations can be made in performance tests. A higher school career is not endangered by partial performance weaknesses if a corresponding diagnosis has been confirmed.
Cerebral Disorders: In the past, this disorder was referred to as minimal cerebral dysfunction - MCP - today it is called only cerebral palsy. The statistic says the following:
- Every second child suffering from this disease was born with low birth weight (less than 1500 g).
- At least one in twenty very low birthweight children suffers from cerebral disorders.
- At less than 1000 g birth weight the risk increases enormously.
The lower the birth weight, the more likely is a visual impairment, e.g. Short or long sightedness, astigmatism, strabismus and diminished three-dimensional vision, regardless of whether a premature infant retinopathy additionally occurs or not. (Read more about retinopathy in premature birth in our article "Early Challenges.") Preterm infants should have regular follow-up visits to the ophthalmologist and a sight school until they are enrolled.
Hearing problems also tend to occur in low birth weight children, especially those with very low birth weight. Therefore, it makes sense to begin regular hearing tests soon after birth.
A child born too early may have marbled or yellowish teeth.
Health problems in childhood
A large-scale study of low-birth-weight children found that those two years of age whose birth weight corresponded to the stage of physical development had a greater risk of developing asthma, wheezing and high blood pressure than those who were small for their age were. So premature birth seems to be a greater risk than a growth delay. Hormone treatments can help boost the child's growth. Ask your pediatrician for possible treatments.
A new study by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) shows that premature babies born before the 32nd week of gestation are particularly likely to suffer from developmental disorders. The health problems persist into elementary age, many of the affected children are struggling with learning problems, including reading and spelling weaknesses.
The social environment of a premature baby is crucial to its development. New studies show that the social environment in which a premature baby grows has a proven influence on the child's development. The deciding factor here is whether the parents support the child, attend regular therapies, take medical and control appointments with medical specialists, etc. Likewise, former preterm infants develop demonstrably better when the family environment of the child is stable and no environmental and socially harmful influences such as unemployment or Divorce the family,
Studies from the US show that premature babies are less likely to be addicted to peers than peers, but more likely to have peer difficulties. Due to the frequent overprotection within the family, preterm infants have difficulties to assert themselves, to develop self-esteem and to become independent. At home, they often command the family members because they have a special role within the family. However, if they leave the sheltered environment, they find it difficult to implement that self-confidence outside the family. Frequently, extreme delicacy and physical inferiority to peers also play a role. Boys suffer from physical inferiority, especially during puberty. Very small premature babies are also often late in puberty, which in turn can be emotionally stressful.
Reviewed by Silke Mader of the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Enfants (EFCNI)