Study: Early-Term births increase risk of preterm births

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Women whose first child was born at 37 to 38 weeks, also known as an early-term birth, are two-to-three times more likely to have the second child be born even earlier, according to a study from UCSF released Monday.

Births given at less than 37 weeks are defined as preterm. The chances of these births happening are 1 in 10 and are the leading cause of infant death, according to the study.

“The magnitude of the increased risk surprised us – it really is a potent factor,” said Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski, PhD,  who is associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, associate director of precision health with the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi-CA), and senior author of the new study.

The study analyzed data from over 160,000 California women, who gave birth between 2005 and 2011.

“As in previous studies, the researchers noted additional risk factors for premature birth, which is more frequent in African-American mothers, when there is an inter-pregnancy interval of less than 6 months, with illicit drug use during pregnancy, or when mothers have been diagnosed with hypertension, preexisting diabetes, or urinary tract infections,” the study said.

Preterm birth is linked with cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and vision and hearing impairment, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Delaying labor by just two weeks could make a major difference in neurologic outcomes and adult health,” said Larry Rand, MD, who is associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF.

“Delaying labor by just two weeks could make a major difference in neurologic outcomes and adult health,” said Rand. “We are on the edge of a new era in prematurity prevention and improving associated outcomes – there are new blood tests that can help improve identifying who’s at risk for prematurity. When coupled with important risk factors, like maternal conditions and previous pregnancy duration, not only do we get a more precise picture of risk, but also a more informed sense of what interventions could be most powerful to mitigate those risks,” Rand added.

The study was published on Monday.

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