Surprising Premature Baby Study Is Not Good News

Not every study is one we need to hear highly publicized, and a recent one showing that premature and preterm babies are more likely to die in young adulthood is one of them. How is it really helpful to know this? Even though I know information matters, sometimes there are studies we just don't want to hear.

We have always known that premature babies are at risk in their childhood, but now it seems that persists. A study out of Stanford tracked preterm babies who survived to age 18 to 36. And even then, they faced a 38 percent increased risk of death

Lead author Casey Crump, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, said:


We all know that preterm infants have a higher risk of dying in the first few years of life, but that risk was believed to wane over time. This shows that an increased risk of mortality reappears in young adulthood. That's important news for survivors of preterm birth, their families, and their doctors.

How does this really help anyone to know? Well, for one thing, you can be proactive. If you have a preterm baby (or were one), you can be vigilant about doctor visits. A healthy lifestyle also helps, so eat well, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and don't smoke.

Most of all, don't freak out. The fact is, most premature babies do very well. Despite the relative increase in risk of early death, the findings show that the absolute risk of death in early adulthood is low: less than one person per 1,000.

So, OK. Maybe this study is important and will encourage people to live the way they should be living anyway. But sometimes it really does feel like the only purpose of studies like these is to terrify us. If X causes cancer and X is something we use every day, how can we help ourselves? The same goes for this.

Parents with preemies can't change if their babies came early. They can only fix what they can. So, like all of us, they will do their best to keep their babies healthy (wouldn't they anyway?) and hope for the best.

In the end, that's what we're all doing.

Does this study worry you?


Image via Elin B/Flickr

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