Premature Babies More Prone to Mental Illness

Meanwhile, another study says fear makes labor last longer
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2012 10:48 AM CDT
Premature Babies More Prone to Mental Illness
A premature birth child model pictured in a Incubator at the 'Medica World Forum for Medicine' (MEDICA) fair on November 17, 2011 in Duesseldorf, western Germany.   (Getty Images)

A pair of new studies today took a look at pregnancy, birth, and the brain, with one focused on the baby and the other on the mother. The breakdown:

  • The first found that babies born very prematurely—at less than 32 weeks of gestation—were twice as likely to be hospitalized with schizophrenia or delusional disorders, three times more likely for major depression, and seven times more likely for bipolar disorder, the New York Times reports. Babies born at 32-36 weeks saw a lesser version of the same effect. The study implies that the roots of mental illness go back a lot further than therapists may realize.

  • But expectant moms shouldn't get too worried for two reasons: One, because the overall risk of mental illness is still low, and two, because it'll make labor worse. Study No. 2 dealt with women who were 32 weeks pregnant, and found that those most afraid of childbirth had labors an average of 47 minutes longer. Researchers theorize that stress hormones may weaken the uterus' contraction power, or that the moms may simply not communicate as well with doctors.
(Read more premature birth stories.)

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