With preterm births in the U.S. on the rise for the fourth year in a row, parents and healthcare providers are understandably most concerned with the immediate needs of premature babies. The days and nights in the NICU are so hard and parents are often worries about their baby's long-term health prospects—but there is really good news for preemie parents this week.
Your preemie baby is probably going to grow up to be just fine. A new study out of Sweden shows that a majority of people born prematurely from the 1970s through the 1990s survived to adulthood with no serious health complications.
The new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), looked at data on babies born in Sweden from 1973-1997, 5.8% of whom were born preterm. Researchers then looked at the health stats of those people through 2015, when they were 18-43 years old. The study examined whether they had any diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Of the people who were born prematurely, 55% were alive in 2015 and had no serious physical or mental health issues. That's not much worse than the 63% of people who were born full-term.
"Our findings reflect the apparent resilience of preterm birth survivors in maintaining good health," the study's lead author, Dr. Casey Crump of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Reuters. "Despite increased risks of several chronic disorders, the majority can still have good overall health in adulthood."
Of course, premature birth has so many risks for infants—as the development of their lungs, eyes, digestive systems and more isn't complete by the time they're born. It is hard to be born early, but the odds of survival of premature babies has steadily gone up since the 1970s and the preemie babies who are now in their 30s and 40s are proof that today's little ones have a good chance of growing up into healthy, strong adults.