Some Tiny Preterm Babies Show Poorer Mental Health Later in Adulthood

There’s a trend amongst preterm births and black mothers, and stats show, there’s no slowing down. Black infants also have a greater chance of being born very preterm (less than 32 completed weeks). In 2004, 4.1% of black infants were born very preterm, compared to 1.8% of Hispanic infants, 1.6% of white infants, 2.2% of Native American infants and 1.5% of Asian infants. Very preterm infants face the highest risk for death and serious lifelong disabilities and a new study suggests, people who were born very preterm may be at higher-than-normal risk of anxiety disorders and certain other mental health issues, even into their 30s.

Those risks, researchers found, appeared particularly elevated among those who had been exposed to prenatal steroid medication.

Corticosteroids are commonly given to pregnant women in danger of preterm delivery, to help speed the baby’s lung development and lower the risk of life-threatening complications.

It’s not clear why the medications were tied to higher odds of mental health problems in adulthood, the study authors said. Only an association between the two was found, not a cause-and-effect link. The researchers stressed that expectant mothers should not be deterred from accepting prenatal steroids.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to get that message,” said Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Instead, he said, parents and doctors should be aware of