Scientists have shown that babies born just a few weeks early have a higher risk of health problems in infancy.
Babies born just a few weeks early are at a higher risk of asthma and wheezing
Research carried out by the universities of Leicester, Liverpool, Oxford and Warwick and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit shows that babies born before 39 weeks are at a higher risk of health problems in childhood.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at 14,000 children born 10 years ago up to the age of 5. Researchers recorded health outcomes of the children, including admissions to hospital and illnesses such as asthma and child wheezing.
15 per cent of babies born full term experienced asthma or wheezing as young children. This rose to 17 per cent for babies born just a few weeks early. Early babies were also more likely to go into hospital.
Around 100,000 babies are year are born early at 37-38 weeks. Previous work has focused on very premature babies, born before 32 weeks. This study indicates that the earlier the baby arrives, the bigger the risk.
However, experts emphasised that parents should not worry about this small chance of extra illness. Andy Cole, chief executive of the special care baby charity Bliss, said:
"This study highlights the need for the very best care to be given to all babies born preterm no matter at what gestation, and not just those admitted to intensive care."
"Babies born early are at a higher risk of conditions such as asthma in childhood and should be given regular health check-ups to ensure they remain healthy.
"While the study indicates a slight increase in the risk of asthma and wheezing in children born a few weeks early, we would not suggest this is a cause for concern."
Parents who are worried about the health of their child should consider investing in a child health insurance policy, or adding their child to the family health insurance.
With private medical insurance, your child will be covered for treatment in a private hospital if the worst should happen, so compare health insurance quotes online now.
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