Neonatal research Premature babies born in New Zealand have a better chance to “survive and thrive” than in many other countries around the world, a study shows. 

In the first research of its kind, researchers are using Statistics NZ’s integrated data to understand more about the lives of New Zealand’s premature babies. 

Using the linked, anonymous data, researchers can trace the outcomes of hundreds of thousands of children born in the country from 1998 through to 2015. The data can cover different areas such as health and education, over the course of their life. 

Dr Max Berry, a neonatologist​ at Wellington Hospital, and her team found that even for babies born right at the “cusp of survivability”, there is hope. 

“We can tell parents that their baby, even those born around 500 grams at 24 weeks gestation, has a good chance of survival and leading a healthy life, and doing well at school,” said Berry.

“At 500 grams, a premature baby weighs about the same as a block of butter and would fit into the hand of most adults. Full term babies are typically born at between 37 and 42 weeks, so most premature babies can still survive and thrive even when they are born at about 6 months, rather than the usual nine months.”

The results are in contrast to international literature, she said. 

“This data provides a clear sense that it is not futile. NZ should be really proud of our obstetric, midwifery and neonatal care.”

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