Preterm Birth Impacts Long-Term Survival and Reproduction

March 25, 2008

Individuals who were born preterm have diminished long-term survival and rates of reproduction compared to individuals born at term, according to the results of a large population-based study in Norway. The findings are published in the March 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals who were born preterm have diminished long-term survival and rates of reproduction compared to individuals born at term, according to the results of a large population-based study in Norway. The findings are published in the March 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Geeta K. Swamy, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and colleagues investigated the long-term effects of preterm birth by analyzing data from over a million singleton births in the Medical Birth Registry of Norway from 1967-1988. The entire cohort was followed-up through 2002 to assess survival, and a subset that included 1967-1976 births was assessed for reproductive outcomes through 2004.

The investigators found that participants who were born very preterm had an increased mortality risk throughout childhood, with relative risks of early childhood death ranging from 5.3 for boys to 9.7 for girls born at 22 to 27 weeks' gestational age. As adults, participants who were born preterm also had reduced rates of reproduction compared to non-preterm individuals, the report indicates. Women who were born preterm, but not men, were at increased risk of having preterm offspring.

"These risks should be interpreted cautiously because the majority of preterm infants have good health and good reproduction," according to the authors of an associated editorial.

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