Effects of Premature Birth Felt into Adulthood

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premature birth

Researchers find premmies face health and social problems as they grow. Credit: Getty Images

The effects of being born premature apparently can last well into adulthood.

MSN reports researchers from the University of Rhode Island followed more than 200 premature infants for 21 years. They found preemies often grow up to be less healthy and face a greater risk of heart problems than other kids. They also tend to struggle more socially.

Lead researcher Mary Sullivan, a professor of nursing at the University of Rhode Island and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, tells MSN extremely low birth weight, repeated blood draws, surgery and breathing issues can affect stress levels in people born prematurely.

She adds such stressors produce higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which is involved in the regulation of metabolism, immune response and vascular tone.

The less a preemie weighs at birth, the greater the risk, she tells MSN.

Sullivan and her team found preemies born at extremely low birth weights had the poorest pulmonary outcomes and a higher resting blood pressure. Premature infants with medical and neurological problems had up to a 32 percent greater risk for acute and chronic health conditions versus normal-weight newborns.

Sullivan adds pre-term infants with no medical conditions -- particularly boys -- still struggled more academically. Preemies tended to have more learning disabilities, trouble with math and need more school services than kids who were full-term babies, she tells MSN.

"These findings are important for parents, nurses in the neo-natal intensive care units, teachers and staff in the schools, disability services offices in colleges and primary care providers," Sullivan tells MSN. "By identifying the issues pre-term babies face in childhood, adolescence and through adulthood, we can all be better prepared to take steps to mitigate their effects."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.