Daily Archives: June 4, 2012

Premature Births Showing Increased Risk of Mental Illness

In the news this morning, a recent study led by Chiara Nosarti from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London paired with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has suggested that prematurely born babies have a significantly increased risk for psychiatric illness.

Risk is increased for more severe illnesses, and the article named specifically psychosis (which is really more of a general, severe symptom), depression, and bipolar disorder.

Scientists believe this increased risk is due to slight differences in brain development when babies are born before the 40 week mark (full term), and babies born before the 32 week period are at an even higher risk than those born only a few weeks early.

The article at psychcentral outlined what the increased risk looks like:

“Psychosis was two and a half times more likely for premature babies, severe depression three times more likely, and bipolar disorder 7.4 times more likely for those born before 32 weeks.”

Increased risk was shown for moderately early babies, but the risk was not as high.

On top of that, Chiara Nosarti who led the research said,

“Since we considered only the most severe cases that resulted in hospitalization, it may be that in real terms this link is even stronger.”

The research only used cases where the psychiatric disturbance was severe enough to lead to hospitalization, so it is very likely that there is a bigger connection than what we are seeing. Many people live with psychiatric problems and never seek/require help that includes hospitalization.

The article also stresses that the majority of premature babies do not develop psychiatric problems, so mommies -no need to panic immediately.

Some suggest that our increased technology and ability to deliver babies that are so premature could have something to do with the rise in prevalence of things like autism and psychiatric disorders.

You can read the full article here