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Early births linked to autism

9th June 2010

Researchers at Glasgow University have published a study which suggests that babies born a week or more prematurely have a higher risk of autism and learning difficulties.

foetus1

The scientists examined the birth records of more than 400,000 children. They discovered that babies born from 37-39 weeks had a 5.1% higher risk of learning difficulties, compared to 4% for babies born at 40 weeks.

About one third of all babies are delivered between 37-39 weeks of pregnancy.

Professor Jill Pell, an expert in public health and health policy at Glasgow University, who headed the research, said: "There was an increasing risk of special educational needs as the gestation date fell, so as deliveries got earlier, the risk went up. Even being just a week early put the risk up."

Previous studies have shown that babies born at 24 weeks or earlier have an increased danger of learning difficulties. 

However the effect on a baby being born from 24-40 weeks had not previously been researched.

Professor Pell discovered that the danger of learning difficulties was more pronounced in very premature babies, the total amount of children who had learning problems who were born from 37-39 weeks was higher, due to the fact that there were more babies delivered during this time period.

The new study was published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal.

 

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