Premature Birth May Increase Chances for ADHD

Researchers performed a study evaluating the correlation between preemies and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Researchers in Sweden performed a study evaluating the correlation between preemies and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sources say.

According to the results, which are published in the April 18th, 2011 online edition of Pediatrics, the risk of a child developing ADHD raises with every week he/she is born short of full-term.

"Even in babies born in the early term period—at 37-38 weeks—the risk is 20 percent higher," Dr. Anders Hjern, lead researcher and an adjunct professor of pediatric epidemiology at the Center for Health Equity Studies at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

While previous studies have already confirmed an existing connection between premature birth and the development of ADHD, this study has added data which focuses on the degree of preterm birth, according to the researchers.

"Our study is the first to report that the risk for ADHD is 40 to 60 percent higher in babies born moderately preterm," said Hjern.

The researchers evaluated data from over 1.2 million Swedish children born between the years 1987 and 2000, who were monitored to see if they received medication for ADHD when they were between the ages of six and nineteen years old.

They discovered that the odds of a child developing ADHD correlated with how many weeks preterm he or she was born.

Babies born 37 to 38 weeks preterm had a 10 to 20 percent risk of developing ADHD; children born 33 to 34 weeks preterm were up to 40 percent; and babies born after 29 to 32 weeks of gestation held the high rick of 60 percent.

The odds of a preterm baby developing ADHD as opposed to a full-term baby were doubled for children born very preterm, about 23 to 28 weeks.

The study, while emphasizing the need for intensive neonatal care and follow-ups for preemies, also calls attention to the recent fad of elective caesarean surgery sweeping the country, as opposed to medically necessary c-sections.

"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," Hjern stated. "To minimize the risk for ADHD, these births should be planned as close to the full term date—that is, week 40—as possible."

In reference to the study, Dr. Charles R. Bauer, professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, stated "A full-term baby was meant to be full term, and they shouldn't interfere with that unless it's necessary."

“The lesson to be learned here is that late preterm babies are at risk," concluded Bauer.

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