Premature birth increases the risk of health complications later in life. A pre-term baby, born three weeks or earlier than the predicted due date (40 weeks or 280 days), is likely to suffer from developmental abnormalities such as abnormal growth, mental retardation, hearing loss, poor health, cardiovascular diseases, and abnormal growth of lungs.
Researchers from different departments of the University of Wisconsin–Madison have recently found that the size of the heart of premature babies is significantly smaller than babies born at full term. This increases their risk of heart diseases in adolescence. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
In this population-based cohort study, exposure to maternal antenatal corticosteroid treatment to accelerate fetal maturation when birth before 34 weeks is imminent was associated with mental and behavioral disorders in children. https://t.co/rRhVlVA2J3
— JAMA (@JAMA_current) May 20, 2020
Childbirth is a long, complex, and painful process, and poor management during labor periods can lead to many birth injuries such as the organs of the baby remaining underdeveloped, excessive pressure and denting on the head or body, or the baby contracting the infection.
The reasons behind the preterm birth could be the body’s natural response to certain infections, early induction of labor, cesarean due to pregnancy complications or medical conditions in the mother or the fetus. However, the current study focused on the heart problems that a premature baby may experience later in life.
Approximately 35% and 27% of premature deaths in men and women are caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), according to a statistical fact sheet by American Heart Association (AHA).
Whereas, a global estimation by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that almost 15 million babies are born prematurely, and above 1 million of the preterm babies die every year.
So, to find a connection between a preterm baby and the heart, researchers analyzed data between February 2016 and October 2019. They collected samples and divided it into three different groups. The first group had 20 adolescen0s and 1990s with a mean age of 26 years. The third group comprised 52 age-matched participants who were born at term and undergone cardiac magnetic resonance imagery (MRI).
Afterward, the team categorized the sample into two groups by separating the adolescents and young adults on the basis of term and preterm deliveries. The first group had 40 adolescents of which 24 were girls whereas, the second group had 70 young adults including 43 women. None of the study participants smoked and had any cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses.
The team used MRI to check heart strain. They also used steady-state procession series to calculate the left and right ventricle end-systolic and end-systolic volume, stroke volume, cardiac output, and ventricular mass.
The team determined that adolescents and young adults born prematurely had significantly smaller left ventricle end-diastolic volume ranges between 72 vs 80 and 80 and 92 mL/m2, respectively. On another hand, the range for left ventricle end-systolic volume was between 30 vs 34 and 32 vs 38 mL/m2 for adolescents and young adults, respectively.
For an average-sized man, the end-diastolic volume is 120 milliliters of blood and the end-systolic volume is 50 milliliters of blood.
The team also found out that a group of premature and term group individuals had decreased cardiac mass ranged between 39.6 vs 44.4 and 40.7 vs 49.8 for adolescents and young adults, respectively.
Jay Mehta, MD, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, said: “The smaller cardiac structure observed in this study is consistent with previous research. Although this research had a small number of study participants. Even in a small number of patients, you can show cardiac abnormality.”
There is a need for more research to find the differences in cardiac growth that could not be possible in the current study due to the limited study sample.
Hardships of Preterm Baby and Parenting
Premature birth is not only a hard state for the baby, it is also a very difficult period for the parents. Parents of preterm babies are more likely to experience stress and negative emotions including anger, anxiety, and depression after birth.