Premature birth affects health well into adulthood

March 26th, 2008 - 2:04 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 26 (IANS) Premature babies carry greater health risks into adulthood than previously thought, according to a survey of more than a million men and women. “When a baby is born pre-term (premature), we tend to focus on the short-term risk of complications,” said Geeta Swamy of Duke University, a co-author of the long-term study.

“While it is true that the risk of complications is highest in the immediate time period, including hospitalisation and the first year of life, that risk continues into adolescence. Those who are born extremely prematurely are more likely to have complications throughout their lives.”

Premature birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks of gestation, is the leading cause of infant mortality. Research has documented the short-term complications as well as the long-term disabilities survivors must cope with.

Findings of the survey appear in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Swamy and fellow researchers used a national population-based registry containing birth and death data to analyse how premature birth affects long-term survival, subsequent reproduction and next-generation premature birth.

The study spanned 20 years, from 1967 through 1988. Births occurred on or after 22 weeks and through 37 weeks gestation.

The study found that boys born between 22 and 27 weeks had the highest rate of early childhood death.

Reproduction rates were considerably lower for men and women born premature when compared to those born at term. Reproduction increased in direct proportion to higher gestational age.

Women born premature were more likely to experience recurrent premature birth and an increased risk of adverse outcomes in their offspring. A similar pattern was reported for foetal stillbirth and infant mortality among women born premature.

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