Concerns About Preterm Birth Extend to the Last Few Weeks

Concerns About Preterm Birth Extend to the Last Few Weeks


Concerns About Preterm Birth Extend to the Last Few Weeks

Concerns About Preterm Birth Extend to the Last Few Weeks

When researchers control for underlying conditions associated with early deliveries, like maternal hypertension or diabetes, late preterm infants are still at higher risk than full-term infants whose mothers have those same problems.

As they grow, the late preterm children are also at increased risk for developmental problems, Dr. Shah said. “Beyond the perinatal period, at a population level, when compared to full-term infants, there is a higher incidence of learning difficulties and minor cognitive and neurologic issues.”

In a recent study, researchers looked at data from a group of almost 6,000 children in New York (the Upstate KIDS cohort, born outside New York City from 2008 to 2010) who were regularly assessed during the first three years of life through parental questionnaires. The researchers also looked to see whether children had been found eligible for early intervention services, which are provided to those with developmental delays.

Edwina Yeung, a senior investigator at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development division of intramural population health research, who was the senior author, said, “We were trying to look at this in a longitudinal way, as a continuum of gestational age.”

Although the most marked risks were found in children born at the lower gestational ages (32 weeks and below), the relationship was consistent: The longer babies stayed in the womb, the less likely they were to show developmental delays on the questionnaires, and to qualify for early intervention services. The late preterm infants were at higher risk than the early term infants, but those born at 37 and 38 weeks gestation were also at higher developmental risk, with a greater likelihood of failing the gross motor and communication domains of the questionnaire. Even 39 weeks was not as good as 40 or 41.

“Nobody doubts that preterm delivery is a problem,” Dr. Yeung said. “The question of interest is in that small window around 40 weeks with term deliveries and early term deliveries.”

Dr. Shah, who was not involved with this study, said, “The key take-home message is that every week seems to make a difference in terms of developmental delay — the earlier you were born, the higher your risk for developmental delay.”


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