Prematurely born children can also lead normal lives in a competitive world, according to a recent study conducted by the McMaster University's Saroj Saigal. Where educational achievements are concerned, there is not much difference between those who were born prematurely, and those with a normal birth weight. Earlier research suggested premature babies face a greater risk of problems in behavior and academic achievement.
The researchers studied 166 children born weighing 1.1 to 2.2lbs (0.5 to 1 kg) and 145 comparable normal birth weight children until they were in their mid-20s. The researchers based their study on the hypothesis that the children of lower birth weight would have lower levels of educational achievement and employment and would be less independent.
A significant majority of young adults who were low birth weight infants have overcome earlier difficulties to become functional members of the society. The study found that 82% of low birth weight children graduated from high school, compared to 87% of normal birth weight. And about a third of the children, all of them born during 1977-1982, in each group went into post-secondary education.
There were also no significant differences between the groups in terms of independent living, marriage or cohabitation, the researchers said. However in a sub-analysis, a larger proportion of extremely low birth weight participants, 26%, were not employed due to chronic illness or permanent disability compared to normal birth weight subjects (15%).
It was important that parents of very premature babies did not 'wrap their children up in cotton wool' and inadvertently damage their chances of living independently, Gillian Fletcher, former president of the National Childbirth Trust and an antenatal teacher said.