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Baby Boys have an Increased Risk of Being Born Premature

Update Date: Nov 15, 2013 04:03 PM EST

Infants should all ideally be born full term to avoid health issues for both mother and child. However, pregnancy complications inevitably come up. In a new study, researchers discovered that male babies tend to be at a greater risk of being born preterm. Furthermore, when babies in general are born preterm, male infants tend to also be at an increased risk of disability.

"Baby boys have a higher likelihood of infections, jaundice, birth complications, and congenital conditions but the biggest risk for baby boys is due to pre-term birth," the authors wrote according to The Star. "For two babies born at the same degree of prematurity, a boy will have a higher risk of death and disability compared to a girl."

The research team headed by professor Joy Lawn, who is a neonatologist and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medical (LSHTM), reported that in the United Kingdom, 34,400 boys were born before reaching week 37 in 2012. The number of girls that were born preterm in the same year was 28,700. Within this country, around 1,300 babies who were born before week 28 die per year.

"Throughout development, girls are a little bit ahead of boys. Girls walk before boys, they talk before boys and it's also true in utero," said Joy Lawn according to the Wall St Journal. "Being even a little bit more mature brings an advantage."

On the global scale, the research team reported that 15 million babies out of 135 million are born premature with a little under one million of them dying. Baby boys have a 14 percent increased risk of being born premature. Baby boys also have an increased risk of having a disability, such as cerebral palsy and blindness, due to being born preterm. Around 10 percent of the world's burden when it comes to diseases is due to these types of disabilities. The researchers also reported that babies, in general, born before week 37 in low-income countries are 10 times more likely to die.

"Boys face a triple whammy," added Dr. Lawn. "They are more likely to be born preterm, and if they are, they have a greater risk of death, disability or blindness. And even when they are full term, they have a higher risk of birth complications such as jaundice and infection."

The data came from a compilation of six studies, which were composed of 50 researchers from 35 institutions. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the research, which was published in Pediatric Research.

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