Survival rate for premature babies rising
The number of babies who survive after being born seriously prematurely rose dramatically between 1995 and 2006, new studies have shown.
The survival rate for infants born between 22 and 25 weeks of pregnancy jumped from 40% in 1995 to 53% in 2006, according to research by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The number of premature babies admitted to hospital in the same time period also rose dramatically, from 666 at the start of the study to 1,115 by its end.
A second study, which looked at the health of premature babies at age three, has found largely that there has been little change in the number of babies suffering from health problems related to their prematurity.
Almost 8% of babies in the UK are born prematurely, with the rate of babies born early rising by 1.5% annually. Although more premature babies are now able to survive, the number of those who go on to suffer severe disability stands at 19%, compared to 18% in 1995.
The study did not show a particular increase in survival for babies born before 24 weeks – the current limit for abortions in Britain – although there have been more calls recently for the abortion limit to be lowered to 20 weeks.
Most experts agreed that the study can be linked to the need for an increase in services available to premature children who go on to suffer with disabilities and their families.
Neil Marlow, Professor at University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health, said: “As the number of children that survive pre-term birth continues to rise, so will the number who experience disability throughout their lives. This is likely to have an impact on the demand for health, education and social care services.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health agreed, adding: “While it is good news that more children are surviving premature birth, we need to make sure that sick and premature babies get consistently high-quality neonatal care and support for any disabilities.”