Birth Even a Few Weeks Early May Raise Odds for
TUESDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- The risk that children
will develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rises
with every week they are born short of full term, a new study
Earlier studies have shown an association between a too-early
birth and the increased risk for ADHD. This study adds to that data
by looking at the risk based on how preterm the delivery is, the
Swedish researchers say.
"Our study is the first to report that the risk for ADHD is 40 to 60 percent higher in babies born moderately preterm," said lead researcher Dr. Anders Hjern, an adjunct professor of pediatric epidemiology at the Center for Health Equity Studies at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.
"Even in babies born in the early term period -- at 37-38 weeks -- the risk is 20 percent higher," he added.
This underlines the fact that preterm birth carries significant
risks and needs to be given more attention in neonatal care, and in
follow-up within health care systems, Hjern said.
"The finding that early term birth carries an increased risk for ADHD has [especially] important implications for planned caesarian births, which are often performed during these very weeks," he added. "To minimize the risk for ADHD, these births should be planned as close to the full term date -- that is, week 40 -- as possible."
The report is published in the April 18 online edition of
For the study, Hjern's team collected data on almost 1.2 million
Swedish children born between 1987 and 2000. These children were
followed to see if they took medication for ADHD when they were
between 6 to 19 years old.
The researchers found that the earlier the birth, the greater
the odds the child would develop ADHD. The uptick in risk ranged
from between 10 to 20 percent for children born at 37 to 38 weeks
of gestation, to 40 percent for those born at 33 and 34 weeks, and
60 percent for those born at 29 to 32 weeks of gestation.
Children born very preterm -- 23 to 28 weeks -- had double the
odds of a full-term baby of developing ADHD.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Charles R. Bauer, professor of
pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine,
said that, "the lesson to be learned here is that late preterm
babies are at risk."
These findings "argue very strongly against elective caesarian
surgery, which is going on like crazy in this country," he said.
"There are neurological issues, there are developmental issues,
there are cognitive issues and now there are behavioral
Bauer thinks women should not have caesarian delivery unless it
is medically necessary. "A full-term baby was meant to be full
term, and they shouldn't interfere with that unless it's
necessary," he said.
For more information on ADHD, visit the
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
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