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How do parents of preemies fare years later?

The early life of a very premature baby can be a hectic and stressful time for parents. But once the child is grown, parents are as satisfied with life as those whose babies were born at full term, new European research finds.

“Parents of very premature or very low birth-weight children did not differ in quality of life 27 years later compared to parents who had children born healthy and at term,” said the study’s lead author, Dieter Wolke.

“This is a testament to resiliency and coping,” added Wolke, a professor of developmental psychology and individual differences at Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England.

A very premature baby is one born before 32 weeks’ gestation. A very low birth weight is fewer than 3.3 pounds.

Being born very prematurely or with a very low birth-weight is linked to a higher risk of death, long-term health problems and higher costs, according to the study’s authors.

These children may have trouble in many areas of life including motor, thinking and memory skills. Some may be unable to live independently as adults. They’re also less likely to have a steady job or romantic partner, the researchers noted.

How these factors might affect the parents’ quality of life hadn’t been well-studied.

To get a better idea of how parents fare as very premature babies grow up, the researchers reviewed a whole-population study done in Germany. They looked at all births between January 1985 and March 1986.

Families of 219 very premature or very low birth-weight babies completed questionnaires for the study, along with the families of 227 babies who were born full-term.

When the children were grown — average age 27 — parents completed a quality-of-life survey designed by the World Health Organization.

The researchers found that parents of very premature or very low birth-weight babies were as happy by the time their kids reached adulthood as parents of full-term babies. Among the factors that didn’t affect parents’ quality of life included a child’s disability,…

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