Early Delivery Before Increases Risk of ADHD Among Children: Study

Researchers warn that children born at even 37 and 38 weeks are more likely to experience ADHD, hyperactivity and inattention by the age of nine.

Infants born only a few weeks early may face an increased risk of suffering attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood, according to the findings of a new study.

Although children born at 37 and 38 weeks of pregnancy are only three to four weeks early, and still considered full term, researchers from Rutgers University indicate that they are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity, ADHD and inattention, when compared to children born after 39 gestational weeks.

In a findings published this month in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data from 1,400 children born at 75 hospitals across the U.S., who were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a U.S. birth cohort study conducted from 1998 to 2000.

Mothers were interviewed over the next nine years, and students were evaluated by their teachers at age nine, using the Conners Teacher Rating Scale-Revised Short Form, which evaluates symptoms of hyperactivity, ADHD, oppositional behavior, and cognitive problems/inattention.

According to the findings, children who were born at 37 and 38 weeks of pregnancy faced a 23% increased risk of hyperactivity and 17% increased risk of ADHD compared to infants born later than 39 weeks.

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An infant is considered preterm if born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. After 37 weeks the infant is still considered full-term.

Preterm births can be caused by placental problems, a pregnancy with multiple fetuses, uterus or cervix problems, cigarette smoking, drug use, alcohol use, certain infections, preeclampsia, blood pressure conditions, diabetes, and trauma.

Premature delivery can lead to many birth defects, including breathing difficulties, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal problems, cerebral palsy, impaired learning and behavioral or psychological problems.

In the new study, for each week of pregnancy there was a 6% lower risk of hyperactivity and a 5% lower risk of ADHD and cognitive problems/inattention.

Overall, earlier births, between 37 and 38 weeks pregnancy, were linked with a 50% higher odds of scoring 1.5+ standard deviations above the average for hyperactivity  when compared to infants born between 39 and 41 weeks.

Considering the new research, the importance of delaying elective births until after 39 weeks may be crucial to infant development. Infants continue to undergo development of the brain, lungs, and liver during 37 and 39 weeks of pregnancy, making the final weeks important to full development.

“The findings add to growing evidence supporting current recommendations for delaying elective deliveries to at least 39 weeks and suggest that regular screenings for ADHD symptoms are important for children born at 37 to 38 weeks gestation age,” wrote study authors.

There are other factors which may lead to ADHD diagnosis among children, including suffering concussion or head injury and some research points to use of Tylenol during pregnancy. Concussion and head injury not only increase the risk of ADHD, but also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia later in life.

Regular ADHD screenings are necessary for children born between 37 and 38 weeks of pregnancy, researchers determined. They warned early and frequent screenings are the key to helping children through difficult developmental stages.


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