preterm babies

Preterm babies are more likely to suffer several health issues, such as breathing problems or asthma.

However, a recent study has found something worrisome that hadn't been previous discovered: being born prematurely could have something to do with future mental and social issues.


A baby is considered to be premature if he's born before week 37 of pregnancy. However, these results involve preterm babies who are more premature than this, as the increase in the risk of suffering from mental health problems is significant in babies born before week 32 of pregnancy. The risk is still higher in those babies born between weeks 32 and 36 of pregnancy, although not that much.


The study: Preterm babies and mental heath

As reported by The Guardian, the results have been drawn by 41 studies on the matter that have been published in the last 26 years, and that have gathered data from 12 countries and more than 13,000 children.

Nowadays, more and more children who are born with less than one kilogram recover and get to live fairly healthy lives thanks to the advances in medicine and technology, which is undoubtedly a good thing. However, many of them won't be completely free of the strain they had to endure in such an early stage of their development. According to the study, these children have 4 times a higher risk of suffering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other mental issues. There is a higher risk of bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia as well, and also eating disorders.

This study further underlines that extremely low birth weight children and their families need more support to deal with, or to reduce, the adverse effects of ADHD, anxiety and social problems that affect their schooling, being part of their peer group, and being socially integrated. Our own findings indicate that these mental health problems affect wellbeing, wealth and finding a partner and friends who are supporting in adulthood.

has said psychologist Dieter Wolke to The Guardian.

This is not the only difficulty preterm babies will have to face in the future. Other studies have stated that they are more likely to end up in works with a worse pay, and have been found to be more introverted, for instance. Chiara Nosarti (Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London) said to The Telegraph:

The immature nervous system in those born prematurely is particularly vulnerable to neonatal brain injury resulting from birth complications.

And why does it happen? Experts don't have a clear answer, but the most reliable hypothesis state that this may be related to the lack of brain development in preterm babies. What can we do for this babies? Well, experts recommend doing a whole psychological and physical check-up by the age of 5, and we should be more understanding and attentive with them, as Dr Wolke suggested.

However, let's end up in a more positive note. The study is talking about risks, not facts, which means that if we have a preterm baby it doesn't mean that he or she will necessarily suffer these consequences. Statistics are what they are, though, and have a meaning, so following dr. Wolke's advice, preterm babies should receive more attention later on.a