Babies Should Be Resuscitated as Early as 22 Weeks

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A review by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine has found that despite previous thoughts, babies are now capable of being resuscitated as early as 22 weeks (18 weeks premature).

The change in view comes as a result of medical advances reaching such a point that resuscitation can now take place this early. The news, despite its overly positive impacts, has also reignited rows regarding the current abortion time limit, which stands at 24 weeks. It is currently thought that around four in ten babies born at just 23 weeks and are receiving treatment in a UK neonatal unit, survive birth, meaning the previous figure issued by BAPM in 2008 has doubled. This is a positive sign for the advancement of medicine in Britain. In addition, staggering statistics show that now around 35% of babies born at 22 weeks can survive if treated.

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In previous recommendations made by BAPM, it has said that it was “in the best interests of the baby, and standard practice, for resuscitation not to be carried out”, now though, the guidelines suggest treatment can be considered if the baby has “Favourable risk factors”,

these factors are outlined as including being towards the end of the 22nd week and being a female or single child rather than twins.

In 2016 figures showed that 183 live births took place at 22 weeks, with 23 per cent receiving active care, and 35 per cent surviving. Despite this, Professor Dominic Wilkinson of Oxford University has warned that some babies born at this early stage may develop disabilities due to their premature delivery, saying “It is possible, in 2019, to save babies who could not have previously survived. That is fantastic news. But the very high risks mean that it is not always the right thing to do to provide intensive medical treatment. Sometimes the best and wisest path is to take a palliative approach to the baby’s care, focused on the baby’s comfort and avoiding invasive medical treatment”.

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