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A new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that low birth weight babies, usually premature births, may be at increased risk of psychiatric problems as adults. The research, conducted at McMaster University, found that low birth weight babies were at higher risk but if their mothers were given a full course of steroids during pregnancy, the risks were even higher.
"Importantly, we have identified psychiatric risks that may develop for extremely low birth weight survivors as they become adults, and this understanding will help us better predict, detect and treat mental disorders in this population," Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster, said in a news release regarding the study's publication.
The research study looked at 84 adults who were born weighing less than two pounds and compared them to 90 adults with normal birth weight. All participants were born between 1977 and 1982. The low birth weight babies were about 2.5 times more likely to have a mental health problem than were their control counterparts. Among those whose mothers received a high dose of steroids before birth, the likelihood jumped to 4.5 times.
Interestingly, despite the higher risk of psychiatric problems, the low birth weight babies whose mothers were injected with steroids were less likely, as adults, to have alcohol or substance abuse problems.
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