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Premature Birth Could Lead To Later Mental Problems

January 2, 2009

Premature infants may be at an increased risk of developing neurologic and cognitive disabilities later in life, Swedish researchers reported on Friday.

The report, published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, came from a Swedish national analysis of 545,628 people born between 1973 and 1979.

Researchers performed follow-up analysis on those individuals from 1987 to 2002 in order to determine the level of hospital admissions for psychiatric disorders and alcohol/illicit drug abuse.

Dr. Karolina Lindstrom, of Sachs Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, led a team of researchers who discovered a stepwise increase in psychiatric hospital admissions with an increasing degree of preterm birth.

Lindstrom’s team found that 5.2 percent of children born at 24 to 28 weeks’ gestation and 3.5 percent born at 29 to 32 weeks’ gestation had been hospitalized because of a psychiatric disorder.

They calculated a 1.68 hazard rate ratio for the group of children born from gestational weeks 24 to 32, a 1.21 rate in the group born during gestational weeks 33 through 36, and 1.08 in the early term group (gestational weeks 37″“38).

“Preterm birth carries some risk for psychiatric disorders requiring hospitalization in adolescence and young adulthood (ages 8″“29 years),” Lindstrom’s team concluded.

“Moderately preterm and early term birth accounted for 85% of the risk attributed to preterm/early term birth,” they wrote.

Additionally, they found that the effect of early birth was greater in lower-income households.

“These results are in line with previous studies reporting that addictive behavior is not an important problem in this group,” researchers said.

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