An Australia’s Royal Women’s Hospital study found that moderate-to-late premature babies are more likely to have developmental and behavioral delays. In their study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, these babies are more likely to have language, motor skills, and cognitive developmental problems than babies born at full term.

The study involved 200 premature babies born between 32 and 36 weeks. These babies were also studied when they reached two years of age. The researchers assessed their health, cognitive and behavioral development.

The team found that babies born this early have more chance of having delays in developing language and motor skills than babies born at 37 weeks, which is the full term. Cognitive development skills like following directions and doing tasks were also delayed than those born at full term.

The researchers also found that these babies were more likely to have problems coping in different social settings, the press release states. However, lead researchers, as well as Associate Professor Jeanie Cheong, said that not all moderate-to-late preterm babies experience the same challenges.

These problems can only be observed in 21,000 children born between 32 and 36 weeks yearly. In spite of the small number, this indicates that something must be done about it.

“This research can assist parents in understanding why their child may be facing some additional challenges. But it is key that we undertake further research to understand whether these delays persist into school age and what early assistance can be provided to allow these premature babies to catch up to their peers,” adds Cheong.

The findings suggest that doctors working with pregnant women must educate them about the importance of delaying delivery, until past 37 weeks if possible. Of courses, this advice should take the benefits and risks for the mother and the babies into account first.

These problems were unknown to babies born at this period. Previously, experts only studied problems associated with babies born before 32 weeks gestation. Other studies also have some limitations, which include relying on parental surveys, poor face-to-face assessment as well as poor follow-up investigations.

In comparison, this new study has followed-up to 98.5 percent of the participants as well as basing their findings on assessment instead of parental surveys. “We previously thought it was just those very early babies that had long-term problems but this, and a growing body of international research helps us understand the longer term development and behavioral challenges that are experienced at much higher rates in the moderate-to-late premature babies as well.”

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