Preterm birth blamed for too many problems

accreditation
iStock

Only some of the physical and mental health problems previously associated with preterm birth are actually caused by it, a new study contends.

Researchers analysed the medical records of 3.3 million children born in Sweden between 1973 and 2008, and confirmed the strong link between preterm birth (generally classified as before 37 weeks' gestation) and the risk of infant and young adult death, autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, the study authors also concluded that many other problems that have been linked with preterm birth, such as severe mental illness, learning problems, suicide and poverty may instead be more closely related to other factors that people share with other family members.

"The study confirms the degree to which preterm birth is a major public health concern and strongly supports the need for social services that reduce the incidence of preterm birth," study lead author Brian D'Onofrio, an associate professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, said in a university news release.

"Yet, the findings also suggest the need to extend services to all siblings in families with an offspring born preterm. In terms of policy, it means that the entire family, including all of the siblings, is at risk," he added.

The study was published on 25 September in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. It is believed to be the largest population-based study of preterm births.

In some ways, the findings are consistent with previous studies and also highlight the risks of preterm birth. But previous studies compared preterm infants to unrelated full-term infants, while this study compared preterm infants with full-term siblings and cousins, an approach that shed new light on the issue.

"The study has given us insights that no other study has been able to do," D'Onofrio said.

"Our study is part of a growing interest in research and public health initiatives focusing on very early risk," he added. "When you look at early risk factors, they don't just predict one type of problem; they frequently predict lots of problems with long-term implications."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about preterm labour and birth.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 720 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 8477 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1012 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.77
-0.8%
Rand - Pound
20.13
+0.5%
Rand - Euro
17.57
+0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.7%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.4%
Gold
1,715.78
-0.6%
Silver
20.66
-1.9%
Palladium
2,260.50
-2.7%
Platinum
921.00
-1.3%
Brent Crude
91.80
+3.2%
Top 40
59,202
-1.1%
All Share
65,613
-1.1%
Resource 10
63,687
-1.4%
Industrial 25
79,239
-1.1%
Financial 15
13,961
-0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE