Research studies from Denmark, published on bmj.com in February, that found that the number of preterm deliveries is on a risehas caused a growing concern among doctors. They stated that there has been an increase of 22% from 1995 to 2004. They noted that this was true even among low risk women aged 20-40, where there was a 51% increase in early delivery.
The study also showed that this was probably due to assisted conceptions, multiple pregnancies, and elective deliveries, which have increased during this time. Doctors in UK warn now that if these trends are real then there could be a considerable impact in the society.
Andrew Shennan and Susan Bewley of St Thomas' Hospital, London, explain that the preterm deliveries account for less than 1 in 10 births but result in 75% of neonatal deaths and most neonatal intensive care admissions. They also explain that Preterm birth might also have considerable impact on long-term future health. 1 in 4 survivors born less than 25 weeks' gestation have severe mental or physical disability. Even beyond 32 weeks, 1 in 3 children have educational and behavioural problems by the age of 7.
The researchers from Denmark are yet to reach for possible reasons for the findings, which could be numerous and difficult to explain, but the doctors feel that it may include extremes of maternal weight, smoking, ethnic origin, and social class, the authors stated. A trend towards earlier ultrasound for dating and screening might also play a role. The researchers wrote that understanding the underlying causative factors may be still difficult, but lack of general public health measures to do with smoking, teenage and middle age pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, and social inequities could be a major cause.
The researchers concluded that the Obstetricians should re-evaluate the risks and benefits of delivering babies earlier. The doctors warned that, if these findings from Denmark are true, the implications for neonatologists, health economists, teachers, parents, and children themselves are worrying.