Thank goodness that researchers from the University of Helsinki have brought this to my attention with a new(ish) study that uncovered some of the hardships that my son, now a high school honors student and varsity cross country runner, is more likely to face. The study found that late-term (born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation) are:
- more likely to work blue collar jobs
- less likely to attend college
- more likely to be “downwardly mobile”
- more likely to belong to the lowest third of society’s income levels
- more likely to make less money
As the lead researcher of the study, published in the October issue of Pediatrics, said, “This suggests that the 10 million people born late-preterm each year may be at risk for suffering from lifetime socioeconomic disadvantage.”
It may. But it would be important to point out how and, more importantly, when the study was conducted. Here are the particulars:
- 9,000 Finnish men and women
- Born between 1934 and 1944
- That’s when the mortality rate for late premature babies was 40%
- I have no idea how this is even relevant today given the advanced level of care for preemies in 21st century America and Europe
- Since when did blue collar jobs become a disease?
- And yet the headline will seep into the news media and Facebook feeds, and parents everywhere will have yet another reason to panic or feel like failures
If that’s you, consider what a chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics said:
“You’re talking about a caliber of care that is vastly different and an incidence of mortality that is just huge by western 21st century standards.”
Another pediatrician cites the treatment of jaundice, a common condition among preemies which my son suffered from for a week in the NICU, as one example of how things have changes for our preemies:
“Just managing jaundice — very common in preterms — aggressively decreases the risk of kernicterus, a lifelong adverse effect on the brain, which could have affected some of these babies back then.”
In other words, it is darn near useless to find anything relevant to modern parenting in a study of 80 year-old Finnish people. Also, your kid just may get into Princeton after all, but it will have nothing to do with how early he or she was born.
So when the headlines warning of your pre-term baby’s inevitable socioeconomic start popping up around you, be thankful for your hospital’s NICU doctors and nurses, modern medicine’s advances, and the “Hide” button on your Facebook feed.