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Preemies' Thinking Skills Catch Up by Adolescence?

Study hints at the importance of nutrition and a stimulating home environment

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"The number one reason is that women are tired of being pregnant, don't like their swollen feet or the back pain, and I don't blame them. But it's a choice of putting up with the discomfort for the lifelong health of your child," Herway said.

Neither Campbell nor Herway were involved in the study.

Campbell encouraged parents of preemies to monitor their children's development and make sure they are meeting the appropriate milestones. "It's not about money," she said. "Anyone can create different developmental stimuli, can talk to their children and introduce them to the world."

Yet, even with careful parental support, prematurity is a lifelong health risk, said Campbell. Adults who were preemies may have a higher risk of upper respiratory issues and metabolic syndrome, a combination of physiological abnormalities that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, she explained.

Adults who were preemies can also experience thinking challenges. On average, intellectual potential will be slightly diminished, Campbell explained. "If your genetic potential was supposed to be an IQ of 120, it would be about 110, depending on how little you were when you were born and how sick you were," she said.

Herway said more studies are needed to better understand the long-term outcomes of prematurity.

"Sometimes we see kids born at 26 weeks and they're totally normal," Herway said. "It's multi-factorial and we really don't understand it."

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