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More babies born before the abortion limit are surviving, says report

16 February 2017

Changes in the culture of neonatal intensive care units are said to be behind the improvement. Image: Getty.

More babies born between 22 and 24 weeks are surviving, and with less neurological problems, says a new report.

The study by Duke Health in the US and published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 4,274 babies born between 22 and 24 weeks. The limit for most abortions is 24 weeks.

About 30% of children included in the study who were born between the years 2000 and 2003 survived, but that rate increased to 36% for babies born in 2008 to 2011.

In addition to overall survival rates, the number of babies who have grown into toddlers with no signs of moderate or severe cognitive and motor delay also increased from 16% to 20%.

Why the improvement?

Prof Michael Cotten, one of the lead researchers of the study, said that changes in the culture of neonatal intensive care units were behind the improvement.

"We've taken a big focus on preventing infections, and there's a lot more encouragement and support for the use of mothers' milk than there was 15 years ago, which has also been linked to better outcomes."

Professor Cotten also cited a decrease in infection rates in neonatal intensive care units over the past two decades, as well as greater use of steroids in mothers at risk of premature birth to help the baby develop in the womb, as reasons behind the improved outcomes.

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