Long-term Preemie Issues

Preemies often have long-term health issues.
Preemies often have long-term health issues.
Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Premature babies are more prone than most to face complications — both short- and long-term. Learn about which long-term complications might arise, according to the University of Wisconsin Center for Perinatal Care, and what you can do about them.

Learning Problems of Preemies

Former preemies are more likely than full-term babies to suffer from learning deficits or learning disabilities at school. Up to 45 percent of infants weighing less than 3 1/4 pounds at birth have one or more abnormalities on testing at school age. It's usually not possible to predict at the time of discharge or during early development who might develop these difficulties. Common problems include:

  • Coordination problems: Difficulty writing, drawing, or doing jigsaw puzzles
  • Language problems: Difficulty following directions, learning to read, or remembering words
  • Thinking problems: Difficulty with memory, spatial relationships, or abstract concepts

Behavioral Problems of Preemies

According to the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, behavioral problems are in many ways intertwined with learning problems. Both are more likely to occur in former preemies. Sometimes parents of preemies have a tendency to be overprotective of their child and avoid discipline. This can lead to or worsen any behavioral problems that may arise. These issues usually start before school age and often include:

  • Overly aggressive play
  • Temper tantrums
  • Refusal to comply
  • Excessive loudness
  • Inability to stay still for any period of time
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Extreme shyness

Some parents of preemies are reluctant to set limits or enforce rules because of the difficulties that the child had to go through in the early months of life. However, providing structure and defined limits can often lessen or eliminate some of these behavioral problems.

If behavior problems persist or get worse, discuss them with your child's doctor or teacher.