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Pregnancy Complications Could be Due to Mother's Own Preterm Birth: Study

Update Date: Sep 25, 2012 08:31 AM EDT

A new study suggests that women who are born preterm are more likely to face complications during pregnancy when compared to those born at term. Also, it seems, the risk doubles for those women who are born before 32 weeks.

The type of complications could include gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia or eclampsia.

The researchers have based their findings on a study of 7405 women born preterm and 16 714 women born at term between 1976 and 1995 in the province of Quebec.

Of the preterm born women, 554 were apparently less than 32 weeks at birth and 6851 were at 32-36 weeks' gestation.

"We found that the risk of pregnancy complication was significantly higher among women born preterm, independently of their own fetal growth," writes Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, Sainte-Justine University Hospital and Research Center, University of Montréal, with coauthors, according to Medical Xpress.

"When divided into categories of gestational age, the risk of having at least 1 pregnancy complication nearly doubled among women born before 32 weeks' gestation versus those born at term."

The study findings revealed that among those women, who were born at less than 32 weeks, 19.9% had at least 1 pregnancy complication while among those born between 32 and 36 weeks, only 13.2% had such complications while only 11.7% for those born at term accounted for the same.

Another finding of the study was that women who were born small for gestational age, irrespective of preterm or term birth, also faced greater risk of complications during pregnancy.

Even after considering education level factors, they found that the risk of complications increased with decreasing gestational age.

Also, it was found that women born preterm were more likely to contract chronic hypertension and type 2 diabetes although the age group of women studied was quite young (maximum age 32 years).However, when the researchers controlled for these conditions (which are known to increase the risk of pregnancy complications), the risk of pregnancy complications remained significantly higher in women born preterm, the report said.

In the last 30 years, there have been an increasing number of babies born before 32 weeks' gestation who have survived. This could imply that in future, a larger population will be at risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and health issues related to these diseases.

The study authors suggest that the higher rates of pregnancy complications could be linked to underlying conditions related to the mother's preterm birth.

"The impact of the patients' preterm birth on obstetric care should be taken into account in the care of pregnant patients, as well as in the allocation of resources in the health care system," conclude the authors.

The study was published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

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