40% of babies born prematurely at less than 26 weeks gestation go on to suffer learning disabilities later in life. This is the concerning statistic highlighted in a Panorama programme on BBC 1 this evening.
Leading charity Action Medical Research is doing all it can to help these babies and reduce the problems premature babies face later in life through the ‘Touching Tiny Lives’ campaign. The Charity is raising £3 million in 3 years to fund research to give babies born prematurely and all babies the best possible start in life.
Andrew Proctor, Head of Communications at Action Medical Research said: ’Forty years ago, only about 15 per cent of babies delivered at 28 weeks or less survived. Now today, in specialised neonatal units, survival rates for these babies are as high as 80-85 per cent and the chances of them growing up without serious disability are also significantly better. This is thanks largely to advances in medical science and the contribution of charities like Action Medical Research.’
Parenting retailer Mothercare is supporting the Touching Tiny Lives campaign and recently commissioned a survey which revealed a surprisingly low level of knowledge about premature birth in the UK.
The survey revealed that premature birth is considered to be a much rarer occurrence than it actually is. The survey showed that half of all British women believe that only 1% or less of babies are born prematurely. In fact, a baby is born prematurely every 11 minutes, making up approximately 10% of all births in Britain. Around 130 babies are born prematurely in the UK every day.
The survey also discovered that millions of British women believe premature labour simply won’t happen to them, leading to 88% of mothers failing to read up on the subject while pregnant.
The research highlighted that women held a series of worrying misconceptions about premature birth:
· One in five think that doctors can virtually always pre-diagnose premature births, this is untrue. A further quarter (28%) of those surveyed had no idea whether this was true or false
· One third also wrongly believe that doctors can usually stop premature labour
· Almost one in ten believe premature birth only happens when people have done something wrong to trigger it e.g. smoking during pregnancy or having had an accident. This can lead to mothers blaming themselves for something that is not their fault
· Almost one in ten incorrectly assume that premature birth is mostly genetic and runs in the family
Action Medical Research is behind some of the biggest breakthroughs in medical care for babies during the past 50 years. The Charity has played a crucial role in developing the polio vaccine in the UK, ultrasound scanning in pregnancy, and in discovering the link between folic acid and preventing spina bifida. More recently, its funding helped develop a new kind of infrared brain scanner to measure the oxygen levels and blood supply in babies, and so help prevent brain damage during labour and delivery. The Charity’s researchers have also successfully identified the faulty gene that is responsible for causing a form of cleft lip and palate.
Research commissioned by Mothercare was conducted by an independent YouGov poll amongst 2,000 people in the UK in August 2004
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