Premature births have already been linked with higher instances of jaundice, breathing problems and longer hospital stays. But new research indicates that health problems in premature babies do not subside once they leave the hospital, or even once they leave childhood. A recently published study found that women who were born premature were more likely to have pregnancy complications than women who were born at term.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, studied 7,405 women born preterm and 16,714 women born at term between the years of 1976 and 1995. Within the group of preterm women, 554 women were born earlier than 32 weeks and 6,851 were born between 32 and 36 weeks gestation. The women all had live births or stillbirths between 1987 and 2008. Researchers checked for gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and eclampsia.
Researchers from Laval University and the University of Montreal found that the risk of pregnancy complications increased significantly if women were born preterm. Of all the women, 19.9 percent had at least one pregnancy complication if they were born before 32 weeks; 13.2 percent of those born between 32 and 36 weeks; and 11.7 percent born at term.
They also found that chronic hypertension and type 2 diabetes was more prevalent in women who had been born preterm, despite the fact that all of the women studied were quite young. The oldest participant in the study was 32 years old.
Women who were born small for their gestational age also faced pregnancy complications, no matter when they were born. Over the past 30 years, the survival rate for premature infants has greatly increased. Researchers believe that this increase may also correspond with increasing rates of hypertension and diabetes.
"Seven per cent of young adults in Quebec were born prematurely," Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, Sainte-Justine University Hospital and Research Center, University of Montréal, said. "The impact of preterm births on obstetric care should be taken into account by professionals providing care directly to patients and by managers allocating resources within the health care system."
According to the CDC, premature infants may face other lifelong problems, like intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and vision and hearing loss. Chronic health problems and cigarette smoking in mothers have been linked to increased risk of premature births.