The more premature a child is born, the higher the likelihood of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent Finnish study.
Babies born particularly underweight or overweight for their gestational age also had an increased risk of ADHD, researchers found.
“Although ADHD is more common in babies who are either underweight or overweight, the risks are greatest for those babies with the most severe degree of poor growth in the womb,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
“The reality is that the additional risk for ADHD is relatively low for babies born close to their due date but is significantly greater for babies born seven weeks or more prematurely,” said Adesman, who was not involved in the study.
These findings imply that the pathways in the fetal brain may develop differently in children who are not adequately nourished, or are overnourished, in the womb, or once a child is delivered prematurely, said Dr. Glen Elliott, chief psychiatrist and medical director of Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, Calif.