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Rise in late preterm births cause for concern: Study

Babies born just a few weeks prematurely are more likely to have developmental and behavior problems later on.

Written by Reuters | Chicago |
March 31, 2009 10:27:47 am

Babies born just a few weeks prematurely are more likely to have developmental and behavior problems later on,as well as health issues,than those who arrive closer to their due dates,a study released on Monday said.

Until recently,so-called late preterm babies born between 34 and 37 weeks gestation were considered all but normal and were routinely sent home with their mothers.

But recent studies have shown they are more likely to have to return to the hospital because of problems breathing or with modulating their blood sugar or body temperature.

A study of 153,000 Florida children born in the mid-1990s found that by the time they reached school age,developmental problems were more common among those who had been born a few weeks prematurely than those born at normal gestation.

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Overall,developmental problems cropped up in fewer than one in seven of children born late preterm.

But these children had a 36 percent higher risk of developmental delays or disabilities and a 19 percent higher risk of being suspended from kindergarten because of bad behavior,compared to children born at full-term.

“Long-term development of these infants has previously not been a concern,” Dr. Steven Morse of the University of Florida and colleagues wrote in the journal Pediatrics. “The results of this study,however,indicate a significantly increased risk for developmental delay and school-related problems up to 5 years of age … compared with term infants.”

Between 1990 and 2005,there was a 25 percent rise in the number of American babies born prematurely at between 34 and 36 weeks gestation,to some 360,000 annually.

The rate of premature births before 34 weeks gestation has stabilized. Full-term is considered 37 to 42 weeks gestation.

Late preterm births occur because of a medical issue so generally they cannot be delayed. But by one estimate,there is a 40 percent cost savings for each week the birth is delayed,according to the report.

📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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