Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Very Small Babies, Very Big Dilemmas


"The take-home message from this study," says Michael Speer, MD, "is that if you're going to have a baby at 24 or 25 weeks' gestation, the risks of a significant handicap are definitely there." Speer, who was not involved in the study, is a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Led by Nicholas S. Wood, MB, ChB, of the University of Nottingham in England, the research team examined the records of all babies born between 20 and 25 completed weeks of gestation in the U.K. and Ireland during a nine-month period in 1995. Of those who survived, about 280 met the criteria for the study, and the children were assessed to see how well they were developing. This was done when the children were at a corrected age of two and a half years. The corrected age is the age the child would be if delivered on his or her due date.

Speer points out that some disabilities may lessen over time. "Some mild disability at age 2 may resolve at age 5, but a severe disability is not going to be resolved."

Learning disabilities are quite common in premature children, he adds, and some small studies have indicated that the very small premature babies may have even more learning disabilities.

The ethics of whether or not to save such a small baby, coupled with the high costs for immediate and long-term care, are two issues which remain a source of debate.

In an editorial of the study, L. Sessions Cole, MD, writes that the average cost for an infant born at less than 26 weeks' gestation who survives and who stays over four months in an intensive care unit is $250,000. He agrees that it is a lot of money to spend on a single hospitalization, but argues that cost issues need to be looked at in the full context of health care.

"The entire health care budget in the United States for children is only a small fraction of what it is for older people," he says. "I'm not denying that it's expensive, but when you look at how money is spent in other places, it's not unreasonable." Cole is a professor of pediatrics and division director of newborn medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow