Very premature babies, between progress and questions

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Almost 10,000 very premature babies are born every year in France. This figure is 15% higher than 10 years ago. After the first big EPIPAGE survey conducted in 1997, Inserm will monitor 4,000 newborn infants for 11 years in order to evaluate the benefits of medical advances on the outcome for these babies and attempt to more effectively prevent these pre-term births.

The Epipage 2 study (étude épidémiologique sur les petits âges gestationnels – “epidemiological study on low gestational ages) will gather information on the pregnancy, delivery and immediate management of babies born before the end of the 7th month of pregnancy or at the start of the 8th month.
They will be followed up until the age of 11-12 years, to determine the outcome for these former very premature infants in terms of health and development. This study will be a valuable aid to medical teams for the care and follow-up of the children and will make it possible to offer better information to families. It will also help to improve our knowledge of the factors influencing the health, growth and development of these children.

The Epipage 1 study, conducted on all very premature babies born in 1997 in 9 regions of France, demonstrated that, despite the progress made, neonatal mortality and morbidity remained high and disabilities common. Almost 40% of very premature infants presented a motor or sensory deficit or intellectual developmental delay at 5 years old, i.e. 4 times more than for full-term infants. Epipage 1 also helped produce new knowledge concerning the causes of prematurity.

The EPIPAGE 2 study is being coordinated by Dr Pierre-Yves Ancel, Inserm unit for "Epidemiological research in the field of perinatal health and maternal and infant health"; it is supported by the Ministry for Labor, Employment and Health, the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, Inserm, the Institut National du Cancer (French National Cancer Institute), and the Caisse Nationale de Solidarité pour l’Autonomie (French national funding
agency for the elderly and handicapped) and the PremUp Foundation.

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