Objective: To review literature published in the last 5 years on the effects of premature birth on the development and quality of life of preschool- and school-age children.
Sources: Systematic review of empirical studies published in the last 5 years and indexed on PubMed, MEDLINE, LILACS, SciELO and PsycINFO. Keywords were chosen that relate prematurity to developmental and quality of life outcomes.
Summary of the findings: In the studies chosen, four global indicators of development were identified (neurological, neurodevelopment, executive functions and quality of life), in addition to seven specific indicators of development (cognition, motor function, behavior, language, academic performance, attention and memory). The most prevalent indicators were cognition and motor function. Premature children had worse performance in all developmental indicators than children born full term. Additionally, the younger the gestational age, the worse the performance in developmental indicator assessments. The studies identified both risk factors (lower birth weight, intraventricular hemorrhage and low maternal educational level) and protective factors (larger head circumference, breastfeeding and higher family income) for development of children born preterm.
Conclusion: Children born extremely premature (≤ 30 weeks' gestational age) are vulnerable to developmental and quality of life problems.