What are the long-term effects of a premature delivery?
A normal pregnancy lasts about 38 to 40 weeks — when it’s full term. In some cases, however, a baby may be born too soon — and that may result in physical and cognitive challenges that last well into adulthood.
A premature delivery is any birth that occurs prior to 37 weeks of gestation. The earlier the birth, the more severe the consequences to the baby.
Lung issues are some of the most common problems experienced by premature babies, simply because the lungs are the last to develop. Premature babies usually spend some time in an incubator so that they have the extra oxygen they need while their lungs strengthen. It isn’t unusual for premature babies to develop lifelong breathing problems, including asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
Premature deliveries are also associated with a number of cognitive problems in children. Most premature babies are slower to develop physically, and they’re also slower to develop mentally. Children who were premature often have behavioral problems in school, problems with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and difficulty communicating well with others.
There are a number of additional problems that children who were premature may experience as they grow, including a variety of intestinal disorders that make it difficult for them to process food and take in adequate nutrition. Severe vision and hearing problems, including deafness, are also unfortunately common.
Children and adults who were born prematurely are also highly susceptible to infections — and may remain so throughout their lives. Children, in particular, are prone to pneumonia and meningitis, both of which can be lethal.
There are numerous causes of preterm deliveries — and physician negligence may be a factor. If you believe that your physician overlooked some obvious warning signs of preterm labor or didn’t act quickly enough to halt the delivery by ordering bed rest or prescribing medications that could stop labor, that may be considered negligence. You may be able to hold your physician responsible for your child’s premature delivery and the resulting birth injuries.