Babies born early have a greater chance of developing type 1 diabetes, new research has found.
An early birth considered to be from 37 to 39 weeks can also lead to illnesses relating to obesity and a shorter life, according to scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.
Newborns that arrived between 39 and 41 weeks were shown to be less likely to develop type 1 diabetes compared with youngsters born either before or after this period.
The researchers analysed health outcomes of 54,073 babies who were born early and 171,000 deliveries at full term. They looked at the impact of general health as well as the number of times the children had gone on to have hospital visits.
Youngsters delivered early would go on to have significantly higher rates of type 1 diabetes when aged five or older, the researchers found.
“This association may be due to absence of full maturity of the hormonal axis in early term neonates or, alternatively, suggest an underlying fetal endocrine dysfunction as the initial mechanism responsible for spontaneous early term delivery,” said the researchers.
The study team also found hospitalisations up to the age of 18 involving endocrine and metabolic complications were more common in the early-term group. Obesity was much more frequent among the early term group.
Professor Eyal Sheiner, a vice dean at the university and also the head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Soroka University Medical Center, said: “Pregnancies ending at early term were more likely to be complicated by hypertensive disorders and maternal diabetes (both gestational and pre-gestational). Deliveries were more often cesarea, and mean birthweight was significantly smaller. Babies delivered at early term were also more likely to be low birthweight – less than 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms).”
Sheiner and his team went on to conclude that an early delivery could have an impact on the baby’s long-term health and overall well-being with these youngsters potentially having a shorter life.
The findings have been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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