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Premature baby survival rate skyrockets in Victoria

The survival rate for premature babies born before 28 weeks has skyrocketed by almost 20 per cent over the past 25 years.

In the early 70s, less than 10 per cent of very premature babies survived.

That grew to 68 per cent in the early 90s.

Now, 87 per cent of babies born before 28 weeks survive in Victoria.

Neonatal Paediatrician at the Royal Women’s and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Associate Professor Jeanie Cheong, said several developments have improved health outcomes for very premature babies.

“One was the introduction of steroids given to mothers at risk of preterm births,” she told Ross and Russel.

Another critical medical breakthrough was the ability to manufacture surfactant, a milky substance produced by lungs, which very premature babies do not have.

“When you’re born extremely preterm surfactant is not yet made … so your lungs collapse, they do not expand with air,” Professor Cheong said.

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