Healthcare technology is amazing, to put it modestly. Just 100 years ago, 15 percent of babies died at birth due to lack of medical treatment options. Today, the infant mortality rate is closer to .08 percent, or eight deaths per 1,000 births. All of that is thanks to modern medicine, research, and inventions that have made it possible for babies to survive against all odds.
Now, even more miracles are emerging as new treatments and medical equipment enable us to save more and more babies. New research published Thursday, May 7 suggests that babies born at 22 weeks are much more likely to survive than previously believed.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing evidence of a higher mortality rate for severely premature babies than ever before. Researchers examined data involving approximately 5,000 babies who were born before the 27 week mark. The findings revealed a remarkable amount of babies who lived with the help of treatments at 22 weeks, which is just past the fifth month of pregnancy, right after most parents discover the gender of the baby.
Though the infant mortality rates in the United States are low, the leading cause of those mortality rates is preterm delivery. Around 5,000 babies are born at 22 weeks a year, and of those 5,000, an average of 750 babies survive.
The study argues that many more babies could have survived at 22 weeks if health care administrators had given life saving treatments. In the past, the idea that babies could not live before the 24th week have severely limited the amount of medical professionals who would offer treatment. Only 22 percent of babies born at 22 weeks were offered life-saving treatment. 72 percent of babies born at 23 weeks and 97 percent of babies born at 24 weeks are given the treatment, which is why more babies survive after 24 weeks than earlier, the study claims.
The researchers of this study urge more health care workers to offer life-saving treatments to babies born at 22 weeks to vastly improve the infant mortality rate.
Premature Infant Treatments
Thanks to grants and foundations dedicated to improving the treatment of premature infants, modern innovations have made it possible for treatments to save lives.
These treatments revolve around using specially made equipment to promote life in the baby’s vital organs. A preterm infant is generally placed in a temperature-controlled incubator and is generally intubated to improve lung development.
Through the use of IVs, nutrient medications, feeding tubes, and oxygen ventilators, medical professionals are able to fabricate life within the infant long enough for the baby to grow enough to eat and breathe on his or her own. It truly is a remarkable step for mankind.
The Abortion Debate
Thanks to the incredible technology and this recent study, the abortion law is now under fire. Most states mandate that an abortion occur before 12 weeks, but some will perform abortions before 24 weeks. Week 24 has long been known as the age of viability, thanks to the high mortality rate of babies who have received treatment at that age. However, this study argues that the age of viability is actually 22 weeks, and that the legal standard for abortions should be more closely examined.
The very fact that life can be sustained at such a young stage of development has brought the abortion debate to the table, stronger than ever. Anti-abortion activists are demanding that the states who allow abortions at 24 weeks revoke the law and restrict abortions after the first trimester. Others are demanding that the abortion law be repealed altogether.
These demands aren’t going unheard. Abortion clinics in some states are already closing as the law goes under review both from this study and studies performed in the past. In just the last four years, nearly half of both Ohio’s and Texas’s abortion clinics have closed their doors and are awaiting further determination from lawmakers in order to avoid a legal tangle. Could new research mean the end of abortion clinics altogether? Time will tell.
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