Early birth may raise risk of heart problems in children and teens

The BGU researchers compared the records of long-term health records of 250,000 babies born at Soroka between 1991 and 2013 and found the highest cardiac risks among those born prematurely.

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November 14, 2016 16:24
1 minute read.
(From left) Dr. Asnat Walfisch, Dr. Gil Gutwirtz and Prof. Eyal Sheiner and with their prize.

(From left) Dr. Asnat Walfisch, Dr. Gil Gutwirtz and Prof. Eyal Sheiner and with their prize.. (photo credit: BGU)

A connection between the week in which a baby was born and its long-term risk of heart problems has been discovered in research at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.

The study, led by Dr. Gil Gutwirtz, under the supervision of Dr. Asnat Walfish and Soroka gynecology and obstetrics department chairman Prof. Eyal Sheiner, received the highest score for research presented at the 2016 annual Israel Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine meeting. The research team also received the prestigious Sadowsky Award at the meeting.

They found differences in long-term cardiac health between babies born in the 37th week and those up to 42 weeks – a difference of just five weeks that used to be considered insignificant regarding the long-term health of the baby. Now, obstetricians are dividing the period into smaller categories, between 37 and 39 weeks, 39 and 40 weeks and 41 and 42 weeks. If the mother is not in labor by then, the delivery is induced.

The BGU researchers compared the records of long-term health records of 250,000 babies born at Soroka between 1991 and 2013 and found that the highest cardiac risks were among those born before a full term. A quarter of the infants were delivered between the 37th and 39th week of gestation.

Babies born much more prematurely were not included in the study.

Walfish, in charge of highrisk pregnancies at Soroka’s obstetrics B department, said that those children born prematurely were at a higher risk of having heart problems through childhood and through the age of 18. This finding remained relevant even when factors such as maternal medical problems in pregnancy, infant weight at birth and even whether it was a vaginal or cesarean birth – were ruled out.

They concluded that being born earlier than 40 weeks makes the baby, in various aspects, like a premature baby, with their problems. “Of course, the rate of morbidity is relatively low, but in any case, it’s higher than at full term,” she noted.

Women have to know, Sheiner said, “that when they ask an obstetrician for an induction of delivery because they are fed up or tired but without a real medical reason, it could have medical implications in the long term. Thus doctors must make sure there is a real medical reason for induction.”


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