A study in The Archives of General Psychiatry suggested that premature babies possess significantly higher risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression and bipolar disorder later in life, than those babies who are born after completing their full-term.
Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London and the Karolinska Institute, Sweden carried out the study. The 1.3 million people born in Sweden between 1973 and 1985 were analysed for the study.
Out of 1.3 million people, 10,523 were hospitalised due to psychiatric disorders. 580 out of 10,523 people were born prematurely.
One in 13 babies does not complete full-term of pregnancy .i.e. 40 weeks and born within 36 weeks of pregnancy. The research showed that out of 1000 full-term babies, two babies have risk of being admitted with a psychological disorder whereas in 1000 babies born before 36 weeks, four babies are at the risk. Very premature babies (born before 32 weeks) have seven times greater chance of having bipolar disorder and three times greater risk of depression.
In her interview to BBC, Dr Chiara Nosarti, a researcher in the study, said that premature babies are more vulnerable to psychiatric illnesses than full-term babies. However, parents should not be worried about this. They need to identify the early signs of psychiatric condition, which may develop in later years of baby’s life.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity, SANE, stated that that the study will aid doctors in spotting the individuals who are at greater risk of psychiatric disorders, before their condition gets worse. She added that this is an important study, as it has thrown light on the unknown causes of psychological ailments and development of brain in premature babies.
Chief executive of baby care charity, BLISS, Andy Cole, cautioned that people analysed in the study were born 40 years ago. Four decades ago, neonatal clinical practice wasn’t as developed as it is in the present times. Therefore, with developed neonatal practices, the risk of mental illnesses in premature babies has significantly reduced by now.