The National Institutes of Health research network published the study, which examined more than 34,000 babies born between 22 and 28 weeks into term. The research spanned nearly twenty years, and found from 2009 to 2012, the survival rate of babies born at 23 weeks increased from 27 percent to 33 percent.
Dr. William Truog, Children’s Mercy pediatric neonatologist, co-authored the study. He claimed while the numbers are promising, the effects of an early birth can be long term.
“There is continuing reason for optimism for these children, and yet at the same time, we know that being born with this degree of prematurity, the course is long, difficult, and still the risk of long-term developmental problems is still substantially higher,” said Truog.
The CDC reported 11 percent of babies being born preterm in the United States, with one percent born before 28 weeks. The increasing survival rate of these babies could be attributed to modern medicine and standardized practices, such as giving a mother in early labor steroids to boost the infant’s lungs.
Truog continued to stress, while the rate is rising, there is no substitute for a health, full-term pregnancy.
“Every week or two that a baby can stay in the womb safely by stopping or delaying labor, it just confers a huge survival advantage week by week.”