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Neonatal support lessens damage to brain due to low birth weight

Neonatal intensive care units have lessened brain damage due to low birth weight, researchers say
Low birth weight

Damage to the brain due to low birth weight appears to have lessened due to support given to these babies in neonatal intensive care units over the past 40 years.

Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while children born with low birth weights still have lower cognitive scores than normal weight children, by age 10 or 11 the gap between them has narrowed dramatically.

The researchers reported that the gap in cognitive abilities of low-weight children, defined as being under 2.5kg, and normal weight peers more than halved between the 1958 and 1970 birth cohorts and the cohort born around the year 2001.

The researchers used data from the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study and the 2000-2002 Millennium Cohort Study. Family characteristics, sex and whether the child was the

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Damage to the brain due to low birth weight appears to have lessened due to support given to these babies in neonatal intensive care units over the past 40 years.

Low birth weight
Picture: iStock

Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while children born with low birth weights still have lower cognitive scores than normal weight children, by age 10 or 11 the gap between them has narrowed dramatically.

The researchers reported that the gap in cognitive abilities of low-weight children, defined as being under 2.5kg, and normal weight peers more than halved between the 1958 and 1970 birth cohorts and the cohort born around the year 2001.

The researchers used data from the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study and the 2000-2002 Millennium Cohort Study. Family characteristics, sex and whether the child was the firstborn were taken into account.

Children’s cognitive development was measured using a verbal ability test.

Dr Alice Goisis, a London School of Economics researcher who was one of the paper’s authors, said: ‘Our findings are good news for babies who are born with low birth weight and are likely to reflect improving health care for mothers and babies over the past four decades.

‘Neonatal intensive care units were introduced in the 1970s, along with other advances in medical technology and drugs. These developments have helped prevent brain damage and other negative consequences often associated with low birth weights.’

It is the first study to investigate whether the association between low birth weight and cognitive development has changed in the light of advances in neonatology and obstetric practice.


A Goisis, B Özcan and M Myrskylä (2017) Decline in the negative association between low birth weight and cognitive ability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1605544114

 

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