Survival Rates of Premature Babies Born at 22-23 Weeks are Greatly Improving

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jul 22, 2020   |   1:21PM   |   Washington, DC

A growing list of studies provides hope for very premature babies and their families.

In recent years, LifeNews has reported about premature babies who survived after just 21 weeks of pregnancy and others who survived after being born weighing less than 1 pound.

This week, The Federalist summarized several recent studies that show increasing survival rates for babies born at 22 weeks and 23 weeks of pregnancy. It also noted that, despite the encouraging trend, many U.S. hospitals still do not treat premature babies who are born at 22 weeks.

Approximately 4,600 premature babies were born alive at 22 weeks or 23 weeks in 2017 in the U.S., according to the report. Based on the latest research, most of them are capable of surviving with the help of modern medical advancements.

According to a 2019 study at the University of Iowa, 64% of 22-week babies and 82% of 23-week babies survived until they grew well enough to leave the hospital. In all of their cases, their parents asked that they be resuscitated and treated.

Another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found similar results with infants in Germany. In that study, 61% of babies born at 22 weeks survived and 71% at 23 weeks survived with treatment. Again, in all the babies’ cases, the parents chose for their babies to be treated, rather than left to die.

Data out of Sweden and Alabama shows similar survival rates ranging from 58% to just under 70% for premature babies born at 22 weeks and 66% or above for preemies at 23 weeks.

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Until this year, the earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story. However, Jemarius Jachin Harbor Jr. reportedly beat that record when he was born at 21 weeks, zero days gestation on Dec. 20 in Decatur, Georgia. He was deemed well enough to go home from the hospital in June.

The smallest recorded surviving baby weighed less than 9 ounces at birth. Born in California in December 2018, baby Saybie was deemed well enough to go home five months later.

These babies’ stories, along with the growing research, recently prompted the British Association of Perinatal Medicine to issue new guidelines encouraging medical treatment for babies born at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the guidelines did not recommend treatment until 24 weeks.

In America, the guidelines still do not recommend resuscitation until 24 weeks, though some hospitals do resuscitate and provide treatment earlier, according to The Federalist.

“The U.S. treatment protocol for 22- and 23-week newborns must be grounded in the latest science and in clinical judgment for each newborn’s unique circumstances. Policymakers, hospitals, and clinicians should take action now to improve their care,” the article concludes.

The research should have an impact on abortion laws, too. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may protect unborn babies from abortions once they are viable, and viability now is about 22 weeks of pregnancy. Soon, it may be 21 weeks or even earlier. Premature babies who would have been incapable of surviving outside the womb two decades ago are surviving and thriving today. Laws and medical guidelines should reflect these changes for the sake of thousands of babies’ lives.