What happened to the Browns' baby - I thought that being premature wasn't a problem these days

01:00 Sun 07th Jan 2001 |

asks Sporty:
Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah lost their baby daughter, who suffered a brain haemorrhage after being born seven weeks premature.

Q. What is the definition of premature
A baby is premature if it is delivered more than three weeks before the due date.

Q. Is seven weeks very premature
Not these days.

Q. How many babies are born prematurely in the UK
About 100 babies are born prematurely or too small - that's around 40,000 babies a year.

Q. Why are babies born prematurely
Most of the time there is no obvious reason for it. Lifestyle factors - such as bad diet, smoking and drugs - are known to have a big effect. Recent research suggest that infection may bring on labour early. However, it's not yet known what triggers normal labour, so research is at an early stage.

The Browns' baby was delivered by Caesarean section after scans showed she was smaller than expected and there were low levels of amniotic fluid.

Q. How serious is prematurity
Premature birth is the main cause of death in babies. One in ten babies who are born premature will develop a permanent disability - for example, cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness.

Research by Neil Marlow, professor of neonatal medicine at Nottingham University, indicates that one in four babies who survived birth at 24 or 25 weeks would have severe disabilities; that fell to one in 10 at 28 weeks, and one in 20 at about 30 weeks.

Q. Is a brain haemorrhage rare
No. According to the premature baby charity Bliss, cerebral haemorrhage is one of the biggest risks of premature birth. It's when fragile blood vessels rupture and bleed in the brain. Usually there are no serious long-term consequences. However, severe haemorrhages can lead to disabilities.

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