Rising pre-term births in Western world cause concern

December 12th, 2008 - 10:14 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 12 (IANS) With the Western world witnessing an increasing number of pre-term babies and multiple births, a Canadian researcher has warned that this trend could become a major health hazard for them.Michael Kramer of Montreal-based McGill University says pre-term deliveries have become more common in the industrialized world, posing long-term consequences for the health of newborns.

The earlier the delivery before gestation, more the problems for newborns, he was quoted as saying in a university release Thursday.

Late pre-term babies - those born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of gestation - suffer from fewer problems than early pre-term babies - those born before 34 weeks of gestation, he said.

On the other hand, late pre-term babies face three times the risk of developing cerebral palsy, and a slightly higher risk of developmental delay than full-term babies, Kramer said.

“Although the absolute risks are low for individual babies, they could become a public health problem because of the growing number of these births in the general population,” according to Kramer.

Explaining the rise in the number of pre-term babies, he said this was happening because of the increase in induced pre-term deliveries due to problems with the mother or the fetus.

The second factor behind pre-term babies was infertility treatments, he added.

Both the known infertility treatments - in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques with transfer of multiple embryos and ovarian stimulation - often result in twin or high-order multiple births such as triplets or quadruplets, he said.

And more than half of all twins and virtually all higher-order multiples are born pre-term.

Kramer said further study is needed to know when doctors should induce labour and when they should avoid it.

“Ideally, obstetricians and pediatricians should inform future mothers about the potential health risks associated with late pre-term delivery,” he said.

“The risks must be carefully weighed before a decision is made that could have serious consequences on the newborn,” added Kramer who is a professor in the departments of pediatrics and of epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University’s faculty of medicine.

His findings were published in The Journal of Pediatrics Thursday.

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