Risk for babies born one week early: Serious health problems more likely

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Babies born only a week early are at higher risk of a host of serious health problems from autism to deafness ...

A study of hundreds of thousands of British schoolchildren found that those born at 39 weeks are more likely to need extra help in the classroom than those delivered after a full 40 weeks in the womb.

... With most planned caesareans carried out at 39 weeks, the finding raises concerns that women who have the operation for non-medical reasons could unwittingly be endangering the health and prospects of their children.

... Almost 18,000 had been classed as having special educational needs. The term covers learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and dyslexia, and physical problems such as deafness and poor vision.

The risk was highest in those who spent the shortest time in the womb. For instance, babies born at between 24 and 27 weeks were almost seven times more likely to need help at school than those delivered at 40 weeks. But even being born just a few weeks early made a difference ...

Those born at 37 weeks were 36 per cent more likely to have learning difficulties, while for those born at 38 weeks the figure stood at 19 per cent.

Babies born at 39 weeks ... were 9 per cent more likely to have special needs ...

... These findings ... suggest that deliveries should ideally wait until 40 weeks of gestation ... ‘However the cause of early birth may contribute to the risk, for example, a baby who’s already sick may need to be delivered early to give it a chance of survival ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448