Even moderately preterm babies could face health complications

Even moderately preterm babies could face health complications

Each week, nearly 71,000 babies are born in the U.S., according to the March of Dimes. 7,300 of those babies are preterm, born before 37 weeks. Generally, the more prematurely a baby is born, the greater the risk of health complications. Now, new research indicates that being born even just a few weeks premature can have lasting impacts on a child’s development.

A large-scale Swedish study published in the Journal “BMJ” looked at more than one million children who were born premature, between 32- and 42-weeks gestation. Researchers found those born moderately preterm (32-33 weeks) or late preterm (34-36 weeks) had significantly higher risks of health complications compared to full-term babies.

The study’s authors stated, “Children born moderately or late preterm showed higher risks for any impairment: motor, cognitive, epileptic, visual, and hearing impairments; and severe or major neurodevelopmental impairment compared with children born full term.” The researchers noted because the study was observational, they cannot confirm that other potential factors, including alcohol and substance use, did not contribute to some developmental difficulties.

“This large study clearly shows increased risk of neurodevelopmental problems across a wide range of areas for infants born moderately preterm extending into the late preterm period,” says Dr. Preetha Prazad, a neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “As a physician, I believe we should consider moderate preterm birth an important risk factor and ensure proper long-term follow-up care for these infants.”

The findings also support the notion of more follow-up care for infants born moderately or late preterm.

While the absolute risks were small, the population health impacts could be significant, as 80% of preterm births are moderate or late preterm. The researchers conclude that preventing early delivery could be beneficial for neurodevelopment, advising doctors to be conservative about inducing labor before 39 weeks without medical necessity.

Find a pediatrician in Illinois or Wisconsin. 

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One Comment

  1. My concern is that my Grandson who will be 2 in July does not care to eat anything everything given to him he spits out by mouth . No hand food or spoon

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.