In the past decades, when babies were born premature there was very little hope for their survival. However now, with the advancement of technology and medical practices, parents can be assured that their premature baby has a lot more fighting chances than before.
According to a recent framework guide from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, in 2008 only two in ten babies born prematurely at 23 weeks in the UK would survive – but now, the number has increased to four in ten babies surviving.
The framework which presents evidence from the UK and internationally recommends doctors to take a more personalised approach when it comes to premature babies and assess factors like the likelihood of the baby surviving, its expected quality of life, and the best interests of baby and family.
The guide also adds that doctors should be looking into “active care” which aims to sustain the baby’s life by taking a comfort-focused approach rather than an invasive life-prolonging one.
Professor of Medical Ethics Dominic Wilkinson at the University of Oxford agrees with the framework’s statement and observes that “decisions around the care of tiny infants are some of the most difficult that parents or doctors ever have to face”.
However, he also points out that decisions relating to premature babies cannot be clearly defined. “It is possible, in 2019, to save babies who could not previously have survived. That is fantastic news. But these complex decisions can’t be reduced to simple rules. They need support from specialists in new-born care and obstetrics. Decisions need to reflect the evidence as well as a baby’s individual circumstances and, crucially, the views of parents ” he adds.
In Singapore, according to the Ministry of Health, about 3,500, or 1 in 11 (out of 39,615) babies, were born prematurely in 2017. Senior Minister For State, Dr. Amy Khor, in her speech at World Prematurity Day last year explained that the survival of premature babies is just the beginning of a long road to recovery.
“These babies, especially those who are born below 35 weeks, are at greater risk of chronic health issues such as hearing and sight problems, delayed development and cerebral palsy.”
However, having said that, Dr. Khor also mentioned that while premature babies and parents do face multiple challenges, the majority of the babies can go on to live relatively normal lives.