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Babies born just a few weeks early 'at greater risk' of breathing problems

Babies born even slightly prematurely are at greater risk of breathing problems as infants, a study of more than 200,000 births found.

Babies born at 34 weeks were 40 times more likely to suffer from respiratory distress syndrome, a severe lung disease in newborns, when compared with those born at term, American researchers found.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found this risk reduced with each week gestation.

Lead author Dr Judith Hibbard, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said: "Even at 37 weeks, the odds of RDS were still threefold greater than that of a 39 or 40-week birth. Similar patterns were seen for transient tachypnea of the newborn (rapid breathing), pneumonia, standard or high-frequency ventilator requirements, and respiratory failure."

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]