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Great news for extremely premature babies and their parents

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PREMATURE

Kristina Bessolova | Shutterstock

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/01/22

It’s so encouraging to see the progress being made in fighting for the lives of vulnerable babies.

If you ever see a micro preemie, a baby born before 26 weeks gestation, you’re likely never to forget it. These little ones are the tiniest of human beings, with bodies so small they fit inside your hands. 

Sadly, these sweet babies are often in a precarious situation. Their survival rates can be as low as 10% if they are born at 22 weeks, and the rates increase a little more with each week. 

Recent advancements bring wonderful news for preterm babies and their families. The past few years have brought an increase in survival rates for preemies:

The survival rate of extremely preterm infants born from 2013 through 2018 in a large network of U.S. research centers improved to 78.3%, compared to 76% for infants born in the network from 2008 to 2012, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Their study included more than 10,000 infants born at 22 to 28 weeks of pregnancy … In the study, survival was greater for infants born later in pregnancy, with 94% of those born at 28 weeks surviving to hospital discharge and roughly 11% born at 22 weeks surviving to discharge.

It’s so encouraging to see the progress being made in fighting for the lives of vulnerable babies. This progress highlights acutely the humanity and inherent value of tiny babies’ lives.

The “age of viability” of unborn babies is often a point of contention in debates over abortion. In an article in The Atlantic, Colleen Malloy, a neonatologist and faculty member at Northwestern University, said,

“The more I advanced in my field of neonatology, the more it just became the logical choice to recognize the developing fetus for what it is: a fetus, instead of some sort of sub-human form. It just became so obvious that these were just developing humans.” 

So this increase in preemie survival rates is a really hopeful advancement. It shows ever more clearly the humanity of unborn babies. Better health and survival rates for the tiniest humans is something we can all cheer for. 

At the same time, it’s important to note that race can play a role in outcomes, as it does in maternal health overall in America:

Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. 

Hopefully awareness of this horrifying disparity can be a call to action that spurs the fight to save the lives of all mothers and babies. 

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