Preemies may face social, medical problems in adulthood

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: December 22nd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Premature infants often spend the first weeks of their lives fighting to adjust to their new surroundings. Medical complications and delayed development often become obstacles for these babies as they grow.

But a study suggests the struggle doesn’t end there. Researchers say even infants with treatable medical conditions face an increased risk of developing medical and social problems in adulthood.

Researchers studied more than nine-hundred-thousand infants born in Norway from 1967 to 1983 using government databases that logged health, education and other demographic factors.

The researchers tracked the babies through 2003 and documented medical disabilities and outcomes reflecting social performance. Their findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggest strong associations between prematurity and lower income, education and the likelihood of having children later in life.

Although advances in perinatal care have increased the number of premature babies who survive, researchers say some might find it difficult to cope with the demands of adulthood.

The study’s results do not factor in certain biological and environmental factors… such as parental I-Q and the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The findings also do not account for unknown conditions that led to preterm deliveries and problems suffered in adulthood.

About ten percent of all pregnancies result in preterm birth. In the United States that rises to twelve percent. Expectant mothers can help manage their risk of preterm delivery by seeking proper prenatal care early in their pregnancies.