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Germany has one of the highest premature birth rates in Europe

Germany has one of the highest premature birth rates in Europe


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More and more children in Germany are born prematurely

More and more children are born prematurely in this country. The federal association "Das vorgeborene Kind" e.V. has now stated that in 2016 alone, 66,851 children were born in Germany before the 37th week of pregnancy. Converted, this corresponds to a so-called premature baby rate of 8.6 percent. This rate is one of the highest in all of Europe.

The experts of the federal association "Das vorgeborenene Kind" report that more and more babies are born in Germany as premature babies. The Foundation for Child Health also estimates that more than 60,000 premature babies per year will be published on the occasion of World Prematurity Day. In international comparison, Germany is frighteningly ahead with these numbers.

There were over 65,000 premature babies in Germany in 2016

In 2016, a total of 66,851 children were born in Germany before the 37th week of pregnancy and around 11,000 of these premature babies were even born before the 32nd week of pregnancy, reports the federal association "Das vorgeborenene Kind". This raises the question of what are the reasons for these many premature babies.

More than 80 percent of the particularly small premature babies survive

Fortunately, the likelihood of surviving premature birth has increased significantly in recent years thanks to neonatal intensive care medicine. Even if children are born with a weight of less than 1,000 grams these days, those affected survive to more than 80 percent when treated in well-equipped perinatal centers, the experts report.

What factors affect premature birth?

There are some risk factors that can be influenced, for example, by the expectant mother. These include known factors such as alcohol and drug use or smoking during pregnancy. Overweight, pregnancy at a later age and previous premature births also affect the risk of premature birth.

Other relatively unknown factors for premature birth

There are also some risk factors that most people are probably not yet aware of. These include, for example:

  • Mouth infections: If pregnant women suffer from inflammation of the gums and the tooth bed, this increases the risk of a possible premature birth by a factor of four.
  • Mothers with a migration background: If the expectant mother comes from a so-called crisis country, the results of the child health study KiGGS increase the likelihood of premature birth. This risk also remains if the women concerned have lived in Germany for years.
  • Assisted reproduction: In-vitro fertilization (the insertion of usually more than one fertilized egg into the uterus) increases the risk of multiple pregnancies. Such an intervention also increases the likelihood of premature birth by 40 to 60 percent.
  • Infections: Urinary tract infections lead to an increased risk of premature birth. If such an infection is noticed early and treated quickly, it can reduce the risk of premature birth by 40 percent.

Effects of premature birth on the affected child

Premature birth can lead to motor and cognitive impairments and behavioral problems in the affected children. A 2004 study found that children born prematurely were more likely to have health problems when they were examined at the age of five. 14.1 percent of the children examined were mentally disabled. 17.4 percent of those affected suffered from a physical disability, the experts from the Federal Association "The Premature Child" report. Another 33.1 percent of the children examined also had various behavioral problems. In addition, linguistic abnormalities were observed in 40.4 percent.

Regular examinations are necessary

If premature babies are very small, development experts should check them regularly until they enter school. Such medical monitoring should be carried out especially in children with a birth weight of less than 1,500 grams. If necessary, therapy can be initiated as early as possible.

Signs of abnormal behavior can be seen early

Many children are only given therapeutic support if they display abnormal behavior. Such behavior often occurs in everyday school life and includes, for example, loss-making services of the affected children. However, there are usually signs of restrictions or abnormalities that could have been detected much earlier.

Many premature babies grow into perfectly healthy people

Fortunately, most premature babies grow up to be healthy young people in the course of their lives. For most premature babies from 1987 to 2004, there were no differences in quality of life at age nine compared to children born at a normal time. Premature babies usually reach a comparable final size, like children who were born at the normal time. However, many of these prematurely born children still show discernible growth deficits at the age of eight, which are overcome in the course of their lives. (as)

Author and source information


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