The number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation who survive to discharge from hospital has tripled following a change in national guidelines, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Leicester and Imperial College London examined the effects of 2019 guidelines from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) that recommended that if babies were born alive at 22 weeks, “survival focused” care is appropriate following a risk assessment. Previous guidelines from 2008 had said that babies born before 23 weeks gestation should not be resuscitated.
In their study published in the journal BMJ Medicine, the researchers found a threefold increase in 2020-21 compared to 2018-19, in the number of babies born at 22 weeks who received “survival focused care”, as well as a threefold increase in the number of babies surviving to discharge from neonatal care.
The number of babies who survive to discharge has trebled
Based on extremely premature babies born in England and Wales, of the babies born alive at 22 weeks in 2020-21, after the introduction of the 2019 BAPM guidelines, the number of babies who received survival focused care almost tripled.
Corresponding to the number of babies receiving survival focused care, in 2018-19, 13 babies born at 22 weeks survived to discharge whereas, in 2020-21, 39 babies born at 22 weeks survived to discharge. This means that there was a threefold increase in the number of babies born alive at 22 weeks who survived to discharge after the new guidelines were implemented.
This is the first time the impact of the new guidelines has been evaluated.
261 babies born before the abortion limit in 2020-21 survived to discharge
As the gestational age of the baby increases, the likelihood that he or she will survive to discharge increases. In 2020-21, 222 babies born at 23 weeks survived to discharge and at 24 weeks, 483 babies survived to discharge.
At the same time, according to the 2021 statistics, in England and Wales, there were a total of 483 abortions at 22 weeks and 571 abortions at 23 weeks.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “This analysis of the new guidelines recommending survival focused care for babies born after 22 weeks suggests that many more babies are alive than there would have been, had the guidelines not been in place”.
“There were a total of 261 babies born alive at 22 and 23 weeks (before the abortion limit) who survived to discharge from hospital in 2020 and 2021. According to the abortion statistics, in 2021 alone, there were 1,054 abortions for babies at 22 and 23 weeks gestation. Sadly our society does not seem to recognise the contradiction between a law that permits this barbarity and our health service, which strives to save the lives of babies born at the same gestational age”.
“As the survival rates for such extremely premature babies continue to improve, the barbarity of the UK abortion law will come under increased scrutiny and, hopefully, change to recognise the humanity of the unborn child”.