What are the chances that my baby will have a significant disability or handicap?
For any infant, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT AHEAD OF TIME THE LIKELIHOOD OF A SIGNIFICANT HANDICAP (moderate or severe mental retardation, inability to walk without assistance, blindness or deafness). However, some factors increase the RISK of these handicaps:
- Extreme prematurity, especially infants of 23-24 weeks of gestation at birth. At these gestations the risk is about 50%. As gestational age increases, the chances of being normal or nearly normal increases dramatically and is similar to the chances for survival. This means if survival is 80%, then about 80% of those who survive are free of major disability. Thus, with a 80% survival, 20% will die, about 64% will be healthy and 16% will have major disabilities.
- Identifiable brain abnormalities. These may occur before birth or in the nursery. These include large intraventricular hemorrhages and/or periventricular leukomalacia.
- Babies who have been the sickest and/or remained sick for long periods of time (several weeks).
Most children with a significant disabilities enjoy life and are a source of pleasure to their parents.
What are the chances that my baby will have a minor disability?
Minor disabilities occur in about 15% of children born on time. They occur more often in premature infants, about half of infants weighing less than 3 1/2 pounds at birth. Many of these are not appreciated until school age. Common minor disabilities include short attention span; specific learning problems in school such as difficulty with math or reading; poorer than average coordination, especially for games requiring eye-hand coordination like hitting a ball; and needing glasses at an early age. Children with minor disabilities usually lead normal lives. Early identification of these problems helps make learning easier.
Information complied from Become Healthy Now – written by Dr. Gary Farr
Graph source – NSW Neonatal Intensive Care Study (NICUS) data for 2001 – 2004
Information contained and provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s or health care professional’s advice. Please contact your doctor or health care professional if you have any questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.