NEW YORK: Being born early term may increase a baby's risk of developing diabetes and obesity-related illnesses as well as a shortened life span, according to a new study.
"Early term" was defined as delivery between 37 and 39 weeks. Their health was compared with those born at 39 weeks or later.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers investigated hospitalisations of children up to age 18 to determine the impact that early-term versus full-term gestation had on pediatric health and hospitalisations.
A population-based cohort analysis was conducted of 54,073 early-term deliveries and 171,000 full-term deliveries.
"We found that hospitalisations up to the age of 18 involving endocrine and metabolic morbidity were found to be more common in the early-term group as compared with the full-term group, especially at ages five and older," said Eyal Sheiner from Soroka University Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
What is more, "obesity was significantly more frequent among the early term," Sheiner said.
The researchers also discovered that children older than five exhibited significantly higher rates of Type-I diabetes mellitus when born early term.
"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 cesarean, and mean birth weight was significantly smaller," Sheiner said.
"Babies delivered at early term were also more likely to be low birthweight -- less than 2.5 kilograms," Sheiner said.
These diseases may increase the likelihood of other associated maladies with a detrimental long-term impact on one's health and well-being, increased lifetime healthcare expenditures and a shorter life span, the researchers said.