South East Wales

Cardiff University study early babies respiratory hope

Premature baby
Image caption More babies are surviving early birth than 30 years ago, the Cardiff University research said

University research is offering hope for the long-term respiratory health of premature babies.

Cardiff University's study suggests the lung function of moderately premature babies is reduced at the age of eight or nine, but may be reversed at 14-17.

The research is being presented on Tuesday at the European Respiratory Society annual conference in Amsterdam.

Study author Sarah Kotecha said the number of babies surviving early birth had increased in the past 30 years.

With normal pregnancy lasting 40 weeks, allowing the infant to fully grow and develop, babies born prematurely have immature lungs which can cause severe breathing difficulties, explained the university.

Researchers compared the lung function of children born at various stages of prematurity.

They found those born moderately early at 33-34 weeks had significantly lower functions at the age of eight or nine when compared to those born on time.

When the groups were tested again at the ages of 14-17, the results showed that the lung function of the children born moderately pre-term improved.

Mrs Kotecha said: "There has been a lot of research demonstrating the negative effects that extreme premature birth can have on the lung function of children, but limited data on the lung function of moderately preterm born children, especially as they grow older.

"Ours is the first study to highlight these deficits of lung function in children born moderately prematurely and the improvements as children grow older."

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