Mother and Newborn

Preterm birth linked with increased risk of developmental delays ─Study

*Researchers say infants born before 35 weeks are more likely to face challenges, saying the further away women were from carrying their pregnancies to full term when they gave birth, the higher the risk of their child having developmental issues

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Several studies have explored the risks associated with premature birth.

A fresh study is looking at the link between preterm birth and developmental delays.

The study findings noted that infants born before 35 weeks are at an increased risk of struggling with developmental difficulties through childhood.

Researchers stated this could translate into motor skill issues, sensory impairment, or cognitive dysfunction, among other concerns.

They wrote: “In this large, contemporary cohort of preterm-born children, we report development at age 5.5 in a broad range of areas, the need for educational assistance, complex developmental interventions, and parental concerns about their child’s development.”

In understanding the developmental risks in the study, the researchers analysed data from more than 3,000 children enrolled in the France-based EPIPAGE-2 study.

All of the children were born preterm, and they were divided into three groups based on the length of their mothers’ pregnancies: 24-26 weeks, 27-31 weeks, and 32-34 weeks. The researchers then, compared their developmental outcomes with 600 children who were born at full term.

Eventually, they identified a clear relationship between preterm birth and developmental difficulties ─ the further away women were from carrying their pregnancies to full term when they gave birth, the higher the risk of their child having developmental issues.

The study findings stated the infants born between 24 and 26 weeks were nearly 40% more likely to develop a mild disability and 28% more likely to have a neurodevelopmental disability. Infants born between 32 and 34 weeks were nearly 35% more likely to have a mild disability and 12% more likely to have a neurodevelopmental disability.

Children with mild disabilities often require extra assistance at school, including speech or physiotherapists, and parents in the study expressed high levels of concern for their children’s long-term development, well-being, and behaviour.

 

While this was said to be an observational study, the researchers hope these findings highlight the ways that preterm births can have long-term impacts on children and their families.

They further wrote: “This global perspective is important when advising parents, health personnel, and teachers, and also when designing follow-up and intervention programs for children born preterm.

“Extra educational assistance and complex developmental resources were often used, even for children born moderately preterm with no, or mild, neurodevelopmental disabilities.”

They added: “Difficulties faced by these groups of children and their families should not be underestimated.”

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