FRIDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Preemies face a relatively
unhealthy childhood when compared with full-term babies, and new
British research suggests that the degree to which a child's health
is compromised seems to depend on exactly how premature the child
Those born between the 32nd and 36th week of gestation
(moderate/late preterm) appeared to have more health issues than
those born slightly later in the 37th or 38th week (early term),
the study found.
The findings are the result of work conducted by researchers
from the Universities of Leicester, Liverpool, Oxford, Warwick and
the British National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, and were
published online March 1 in the
To explore the health of preemies, Elaine Boyle, senior lecturer
in neonatal medicine at the University of Leicester, and colleagues
analyzed data from more than 18,000 British babies who were born
between 2000 and 2001.
Each baby's health status was assessed at 9 months, 3 years and
5 years. The information gathered included height, weight, number
of trips to the hospital and use of prescription medications, as
well as the onset of chronic illnesses, disabilities and wheezing,
among other factors.
The result: compared with babies delivered at full-term (between
39 to 41 weeks), those born between the 32nd and 38th week were
much more likely to have been readmitted to the hospital in the
first few months following birth.
In all, the most important predictor of disease among children
between 3 and 5 years of age was being born prematurely (either
moderate/late preterm, or early term), the study authors pointed
out in a journal news release.
Children born between the 33rd and 36th weeks of pregnancy were
more likely to have asthma or wheezing issues than full-term
babies. And more generally, the more premature a baby was, the more
likely he or she could expect poorer health, the investigators
The study authors also suggested that mothers of babies born
before 37 weeks' gestation may share certain characteristics. For
example, the researchers found they were more likely to be single
and less likely to be well-educated or hold jobs in management
positions. In addition, those who had given birth to very premature
infants were also more likely to smoke and less likely to
breast-feed for four months or more.
In conclusion, the study authors reported that: "A gradient of
increasing risk of poorer health outcomes with decreasing gestation
at birth exists, extending from full term to very preterm
gestations . . . [and] these findings have implications for the
provision of obstetric and neonatal services and for planning and
delivery of later health care services for children."
For more on premature births, visit the
March of Dimes.