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Pregnant Teens More Likely To Experience Premature Births

July 9, 2010

An Irish research team reports that pregnant teenagers are more likely to give birth prematurely and have a small baby than women in their 20s.

A study of over 50,000 women in England found that 14 to 17-year-olds were also more likely to give birth early if they were having a second child.

The study highlighted the importance of routine medical checks. 

The team said that more studies were needed in order to determine why the young were at risk.

The study, which was published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, included all women between the ages 14 and 29 who had given birth in north-west England over a two-year period.

The researchers said that in all, 3,600 of those were between the ages 14 and 17.

Over a third of them came from the most socially deprived areas.

The study found that teenage mothers were also more likely to be underweight.

The women who were under 17 were 21 percent more likely to have a premature baby with their first pregnancy and 93 percent more likely to have their second baby early.

There was also a link with younger mothers and having a baby with a low birth weight.

Dr. Ali Khashan of the University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland told BBC News that it might be that the risk of premature birth in young teenagers was related to “biological immaturity.”

“It is also possible that the increased risk of poor pregnancy outcome in the second teenage pregnancy is related to numerous complicating factors such as greater social deprivation and less prenatal care,” he added.

The researchers said that teenagers needed to be given proper medical checks during pregnancy and also said more needs to be done to promote contraception after a teenager had their first baby.

Professor Louise Kenny, the study leader and a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital, said more research was needed to determine the exact cause of premature babies in teenage girls.

She told BBC that one issue was that teenage mothers tended to turn up to health services later in their pregnancy than older mothers and were more likely to miss check-ups.

“It’s not clear why the risk is greatest for teenagers having their second child,” she said.

“It might be that pre-existing risk factors are increased by the physical and psychosocial demand of another pregnancy during teenage years – but again more research is needed.”

She added: “We are particularly keen to emphasis the importance of post-natal follow-up, support and adequate counseling regarding contraception for teenagers.”

Professor Steve Thornton, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told BBC that he suspected there were a host of complex social and behavioral reasons behind the findings.

“The nice clear message here is that it is even more important for pregnant teenagers to have their antenatal checks to identify if there are any problems.”

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