Early term babies ‘at greater risk of diabetes and obesity-related diseases’

Early term deliveries have an impact on babies' long-term health, resulting in an increased risk of diabetes and obesity-related illnesses, as well as shortened life spans. This is according to a new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel.

An early term delivery occurs between 37 and 39 weeks. Pregnancy is considered at full term when gestation has lasted between 37 and 42 weeks. The researchers said that babies born between 39 and 41 weeks of gestation have better outcomes than those born either before or afterward.

The BGU team investigated hospitalisations of children up to the age of 18 in order to determine the impact of early term versus full term gestation on paediatric health. They examined 54,073 early term deliveries and 171,000 full term deliveries.

Professor Eyal Sheiner, vice dean of the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences and head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Soroka University Medical Center, said: “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. Obesity was significantly more frequent among the early term.”

The researchers said they also discovered that children older than five presented with significantly higher rates of type I diabetes mellitus when born early term.

Professor Sheiner said that pregnancies ending at early term were more likely to be complicated by hypertensive disorders and maternal diabetes - both gestational and pre-gestational. He added that deliveries were more often cesarean, meaning that birthweight was significantly smaller.

According to the researchers, these diseases could increase the likelihood of other associated illnesses, resulting in higher lifetime healthcare spending and a shorter life span.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801838688-ADNFCR