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Pre-term birth and associated risks

Adults born pre-maturely may suffer from physical, mental, and social impairments.

Pre-term birth and associated risks

Those born pre maturely may suffer from physical, mental, and social impairments as adults. Previous studies have suggested that adolescents born preterm often present deficits in cognitive abilities, school achievements and social networking. To find out the problems pre terms face in coping with the demands of adulthood, researchers in Norway studied 903,402 infants who born pre term and without congenital anomalies. Out of all, 1822 babies were born at 23 to 27 weeks of gestation, 2805 at 28 to 30 weeks, 7424 at 31 to 33 weeks, 32,945 at 34 to 36 weeks, and 858,406 at 37 weeks or later. Of the babies within the most preterm category, the risk of cerebral palsy increased over time, reflecting higher rates of survival among these vulnerable infants. Overall, 6 percent of those born between 28 and 30 weeks and 9 percent of those born between 23 and 27 weeks had cerebral palsy. All pre term babies had some sort of mental retardation; disorders of psychological development, behaviour and emotion; and severe vision or hearing impairment or epilepsy. The researchers also found modest associations between gestational age and educational achievement, job-related income, finding a life partner, and of having children. However, there was no significant difference in unemployment rates, drug arrests, violent behaviour, or other criminal activity. However, further studies are required to identify modifiable factors that predict adult outcomes among children born prematurely in order to improve preventive and therapeutic strategies.
The New England Journal of Medicine
July 2008
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