Women who were born premature are more than twice as likely to have pregnancy complications themselves than those delivered after a full term, new research has found.
The study, conducted by neonatal specialists at the Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital Center and University of Montreal, is the first to show the impact of preterm birth – before 37 weeks of gestation – on a woman’s pregnancy risks later in life.
"We knew that to be born with a low birth weight could be associated with increased risk of pregnancy complications, but with this study we isolated the ‘born preterm factor’ and show that being born premature has a major impact on pregnancy complications," said Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, a neonatal specialist who headed the study, published online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
To reach their conclusions, Nuyt and her colleagues examined health information from 7,405 women born preterm between 1976 and 1995 who delivered at least one infant between 1987 and 2008.
The results showed that complications occurred in about one in five pregnancies in women born premature – twice the one-in-10 complication rate among those who were carried to full term.
Past studies have shown women whose weight was low at birth have a higher risk of health issues during pregnancy, including gestational hypertension, diabetes and preeclampsia. But the new study is the first to show being born preterm alone has a significant impact.
As the rate of survival of preterm babies has increased significantly in recent decades, researchers said it is important for doctors to be aware of the potential pregnancy health risks for women born premature.
"The impact of preterm births on obstetric care should be taken into account by professionals providing care directly to patients and by managers allocating resources within the health care system," Nuyt said.