Preemie Boys More Susceptible to Death, Disability

November 15, 2013  |  
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Though doctors are getting better at caring for premature babies and preventing premature birth in the first place, there’s still plenty to be concerned about. And now groundbreaking research conducted at 35 institutions around the world has found that baby boys born prematurely had a higher risk of death and disability that baby girl preemies. Those disabilities include learning disabilities and physical ones like cerebral palsy and deafness. And with boys being 14 percent more likely to be born prematurely than girls, the findings have doctors worried–and maybe a bit closer to finding solutions.

Why the sex disparity? Women pregnant with boys are more likely to have preeclampsia, high blood pressure and placental problems, all conditions linked to prematurity. Premature girls fair better partly because, even in the womb, girls mature faster than boys. When they’re born, girls have more fully developed lungs and other organs.

Though researchers found prematurity and associated health conditions were most common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it’s a big problem for moms and babies around the world. About 15.1 million babies are born prematurely each year and 1 million die. According to the studies’ authors, “newborn conditions, especially premature birth, are responsible for almost 10 percent of the global burden of disease for all ages and all countries.” They say newborns and their mothers need access to health care immediately, and simple procedures that don’t require a NICU stay can make a big difference.

Did you feel like you and your preemie got the attention you needed?

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