August 10, 2004
Premature Birth Produces More Lasting Brain Effects In Boys

Permanently smaller brain sizes in premature babies are an especially serious problem with premature boys.

STANFORD, Calif. – Kids on a playground can be hard to tell apart. But those who were born significantly preterm may be struggling with a hidden handicap that sets them apart from their peers: specific areas of the brain that are smaller than normal, even years later.

A collaborative study between the Stanford, Yale and Brown medical schools compared the brain volumes of two types of 8 year olds: those born prematurely and those born full-term. The researchers found significant, lingering reductions in the areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for reading, language, emotion and behavior. Even more surprising, the researchers discovered that the brains of preterm boys were more severely affected than were girls.

Boys born preterm do more poorly in school, have a harder time speaking, and are socially less able.

Doctors have known that preterm newborn boys fare more poorly than girls, but it’s not been clear why. The differences persist even after the early medical hurdles have been cleared: preterm boys struggle more than preterm girls with speech and language and have a harder time in academic and social situations as they grow older. Although it stands to reason that newborns making an unreasonably early appearance have smaller brain volumes than full-term babies, it wasn’t known that boys’ brains are more severely affected or that the disparity persists for so long.

By the description here among those born premature both males and females suffer from lower brain grey matter area. But only premature boys suffer from reduced white matter.

Reiss and Stanford co-investigator Shelli Kesler, PhD, collaborated with Laura Ment, MD, Betty Vohr, MD, and colleagues at Yale and Brown to compare brain-imaging data of 65 preterm children to 31 healthy, full-term children. Preterm babies were born at around 28 weeks of gestation and weighed about 2 pounds at birth. The study is published in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

“In the preterm group as a whole, we found the volumes of both grey matter and white matter were reduced,” said Reiss. “When we divided the preterm group by gender we found, bingo, the females had normal or preserved white matter volume, but the males’ volumes were reduced compared to their full-term peers.”

White matter is primarily made up of the axon connections and cells that facilitate communication between parts of the brain over distances, whereas grey matter consists of the cell bodies of the brain’s nerve cells, where signal processing and thinking happen. White matter lesions are responsible for the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which compromise both mobility and cognitive functions.

“The adverse effects of preterm birth, such as hypoxia, expose the premature brain to an environment it’s not yet supposed to be in,” said Reiss. “Researchers have hypothesized that white matter might be preferentially affected, but sex-based differences have never been clearly shown until now.” Reiss speculates that girls may gain a measure of protection either through genetics or hormones.

The reduction in brain gray matter size that results from premature birth is also quite important because of the role that gray matter plays in determining intelligence. See my previous post Brain Gray Matter Size Correlated To Intelligence. Since intelligence is inversely correlated with criminality the increase in the number and survival rate of premature births may be boosting the crime rate.

The ability to save babies in troubled pregnancies using sophisticated medical technology is coming at a cost that includes not just the large sums of money spent on initial medical care but also the survival of babies that will grow up to be less intelligent, less socially adept, and economically less successful. At least some of the taxpayers money spent on funding the medical care that saves premature babies seems misplaced. The same number of dollars spent on isolating pregnant women who are cigarette smokers abusing drugs, and consuming alcohol would reduce the number of premature births and reduce the number of babies who will grow up with permanent mental and physical disabilities.

Premature births are now 12 percent of all births in the United States and cost $58,000 on average each as compared to $4,300 on average for normal births.

The five-year, $75 million awareness campaign was launched because premature births have risen 27 percent since 1981, resulting in tremendous cost to families, the medical system and society.

"Many of these babies come into the world with serious health problems. Those who survive may suffer lifelong consequences, from cerebral palsy and mental retardation to blindness," said Dr. Jennifer House, president of the March of Dimes.

Another factor contributing to the rising number of babies suffering from improperly developed brains is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Whether due to the age of the mother, other complications that prevented normal means of starting a pregnancy, or the IVF procedure itself, IVF pregnancies have at least double the rate of premature births.

There was limited evidence of a three times increased risk of having a very premature baby born prior to 32 weeks gestation.

In addition, there was just over a doubling of the risk of a "mildly" premature baby, born between 32 and 36 weeks.

What we need are technologies and practices that reduce the rate of premature births. So far most reproductive technologies appear to be making the problem worse. Technological advances are also making this problem worse by lowering the costs and increasing the availability of recreational drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. My guess is that the reduction of exertion needed in daily life might also be contibuting to the problem. Technologies do not automatically make the human condition better. We need to develop technologies that adapt us better to those technologies that have caused many humans to behave in ways that are maladaptive and destructive.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 August 10 02:10 PM  Brain Development

anon said at August 10, 2004 2:57 PM:

Is there a racial component to premature births? Is the gestation period for blacks shorter than for whites or asians? Is the technology saving more black babies?

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2004 3:20 PM:

Anon, Yes there are small racial average differences in gestation periods. I forget what those numbers are but I've seen them before. However, since those differences exist that does not mean that a black baby born a week sooner is really early. What would be more useful would be the rate of premature births that are way early. I don't know what those rates are. I'm too busy at the moment to go digging. Perhaps someone else will provide the info.

Note that there are causes other than innate differences that could be causing different rates of premature births. Different rates of drug abuse, smoking, alcohol abuse, and bacterial and viral STD infections all are probably contributing. It is my guess that white women smoke at greater rates than black women but that black women abuse illegal drugs at higher rates. Not sure on the alcohol. I think blacks get STDs at much higher rates.

Also, there is nutrition. Is folic acid deficiency more common among blacks? If so, that'd contribute to the incidence of premature births. Also, has the introduction of folic acid food fortification lowered the incidence of premature births? I'd expect it to unless other causative factors were growing in incidence in the opposite direction more rapidly.

Kurt said at August 10, 2004 8:23 PM:

What exactly is the cause of the increase in pre-mature births in the U.S.?

We should probably start with discussing that before jumping to any conclusions about race.

gary said at August 11, 2004 12:35 AM:

I would think that it would be usefull to use our resouces to develop technologies that can correct these problems (in babies and fully grown adults that have this condition), as it seems that we, as a society, are now reaching a point that we can very soon apply bio/nanotech to fix what in past centuries, (20th anybody?) would be impossible to fix correctly (ie: fixing brains that have been damaged by injury, as this condition in males clearly can be considered a form of injury to the brain). This will more than likely be easy to do (in the future) as a quick guess says that future recreational brain boosting/doping technological developments will make the current war-on-drugs look tame, as we as a society value brainpower as a quicker way to the top of the heap, both in material and power gains. If you combine that with good looks through future genetic doping the the uber-elite who will want to rule over us mortals, but, you know, some really smart people are usless at money and power games and could care less about those uber-perfection pursuits, oops, but I am getting off topic.

Engineer-Poet said at August 11, 2004 5:37 AM:

Correct long-standing malformations of the brain?  (Then you get to correct the malformed habits of thought caused by the deficiencies.)  Why not find a way to make flying pigs, while you're at it?

The only near-term feasible method for dealing with this problem is prevention.  Premature births have to be kept from happening, period.  If the problem is infection, monitor closely for infection.  If the problem is drug use, get the word out.  Pay addicts to be sterilized - both sexes, as the males may have damaged sperm.

If there is some risk factor of IVF beyond the certainty that surgical intervention increases the likelihood of infection, we should research this.  Perhaps there are some people who should not be able to get IVF due to risk to the offspring, or should have to insure against the risks at their own expense.  We should not be allowing these costs to fall on the taxpayer via Medicaid.

Last, we should recognize that there are some medical interventions that are not worth it.  Neonatal ICU's should be much fewer in number, and the most extreme premies should be recognized as lost causes.  The money saved should be put into comprehensive prenatal care to help guarantee healthy outcomes for thousands instead of bare survival for a few.

Kurt said at August 11, 2004 10:07 AM:

I ask again, what is the CAUSE for the increase in premature births?

Until this is identified, any other discussion seems pointless.

Randall Parker said at August 11, 2004 12:02 PM:

Kurt, There are many causes. For example, overactive thyroids redurce birth weight and increase frequency of miscarriage. My guess is that the reduced birth weights are causing lasting neural differences.

I'm too busy to look up data on the size of the various causes. But my guess is that substance abuse is a substantial cause and that so are STDs.

Kurt said at August 11, 2004 3:40 PM:


If you are correct as to the cause of premature births, then a way needs to be implemented such that drug users and people with STDs are unable to have kids. There's no other way around this problem.

Randall Parker said at August 11, 2004 4:17 PM:


I know I'm correct. I'm just too busy to do a lot of digging to prove every subpoint of my larger point. Still, here are some links:

The American Pregnancy Association says marijuana and heroin increase the frequency of premature births.

See a comment I added to my ParaPundit post Judge Orders Drug Abusing Couple: Have No More Children where I supplied links to research on cocaine and pregnancy.

Also see a May 2004 study: Case epidemiologist reports IQ decreases in cocaine-exposed babies with anemia:

Another strike against cocaine use by expectant mothers using cocaine has surfaced.

Suchitra Nelson, an epidemiologist in the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, reports in a recent issue of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics that prenatal cocaine-exposed babies are more likely to have iron-deficiency anemia, which leads to a two-fold decrease in their IQ scores when compared with cocaine-exposed babies without anemia.

She found that the cocaine-exposed babies with anemia were at greater risk for long-term cognitive and motor skill problems by the age of four.

"These cocaine exposed children when compared to unexposed children at 2 and 4 years old have higher levels of anemia than unexposed children. They also tested for more anemia than the national average for children, which increases their risks for cognitive development problems," said Nelson, an assistant professor in the department of community dentistry at the Case dental school.

She reported the study's findings in the article, "Cocaine, Anemia, and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Study."

March Of Dimes claims all sorts of nasty effects of cocaine and cigarettes on pregnancy:

When cocaine is used late in pregnancy, it may trigger premature labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Studies show that women who use cocaine during pregnancy are at least twice as likely as other women to have a premature baby. The baby may be much smaller at birth than it would be otherwise, because cocaine causes blood vessels to constrict, which decreases the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby. Cocaine-exposed babies also tend to have smaller heads, which may indicate a smaller brain. These problems appear more commonly in babies of women who use cocaine throughout pregnancy than in babies whose mothers stop using the drug in the first trimester, or who use the drug a few times during pregnancy.

Cocaine use also may cause the placenta to pull away from the wall of the uterus before labor begins. This condition, called placental abruption, can lead to extensive bleeding and can be fatal for both the mother and the baby. (Prompt cesarean delivery, however, can prevent most deaths.) Women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy also are at increased risk of placental abruption. Many women who use cocaine also smoke cigarettes, which may contribute to their increased risk of abruption. The drug also may increase other complications of labor and delivery.

Anything that causes premature births is going to cause cognitive impairment. Some of those factors that cause premature births also have additional lasting cognitive effects.

Go googling on various illegal drugs or STDs or cigarettes and premature births and see what you find. Not being an ideological libertarian I don't see that these women have the right to burden the rest of us with cognitively incompetent children.

BTW, I also think what Barbara Harris is doing to pay drug addicts to get sterilized is a wonderful thing.

Kurt said at August 11, 2004 7:10 PM:

This brings up an even more fundamental point. How can people who abuse illicit drugs or are promiscuous such that they get STDs on a regular basis, be considered to be responsible enough to have kids and to raise them properly? This is the real issue here.

People who are no responsible for their own well-being have absolutely no business having kids. The only issue is how to implement this as policy.

Gayatri said at August 12, 2004 12:27 AM:

Hi, Im interested in the fact that boys born premature seem to be worse off..were the APGAR scores of premature babies of both sexes comparable? Was the study in a broad and random enough sample? Were other factors- maternal illness etc. ruled out..?
I wonder if saying boys born premature have more difficulties is justifiable - have other factors been ruled out. If sex based differences in premature babies are proved- then that is a big thing.

Lynn said at October 17, 2004 6:35 PM:

I am a 52 year female who gave birth to premature twins at 25 weeks gestation 27 years ago. My son only lived 8 hours- they did an autopsy on his brain for a study and didn't find anything unusual in size or nature of his brain. His apgar scores were better than his twin sister. My daughter is doing well, she is blind due to prematurity but lives an independent productive life, graduated from college etc. The only thing the doctors could tell me was that multiples are more frequently premature, girls do better than boys and white babies better than black and I believe that this was based on statistics though I don't have those for you to reference. They said there are no definitive answers for the cause of prematurity because scientists don't have a good explanation for the mechanism of the beginning of labor. I am a nurse and from what I read and hear, there is no better information now than there was at that time. Certainly we know that certain factors influence the risk for prematurity. Young mothers of low socioeconomic status often have premies. Certainly, drug use could be a factor. But there are plenty of middle income, healthy, non drug using females that have premature babies. I am glad that the medical caregivers did everything they could to keep my kids alive. How can you decide which premies are going to be productive, contributing adults and which aren't? Are you going to just let them all go because some of them will be disabled?

scott combs said at November 14, 2004 4:03 PM:

The information presented here.......

"The reduction in brain gray matter size that results from premature birth is also quite important because of the role that gray matter plays in determining intelligence. See my previous post Brain Gray Matter Size Correlated To Intelligence. Since intelligence is inversely correlated with criminality the increase in the number and survival rate of premature births may be boosting the crime rate."

...... is bullshit. The sample group that this statement is based on is biased. What about the highly intelligent-prematurely born criminal who successfully commits crimes (assuming only stupid criminals get caught)? Your statement sounds like something a Nazi would say.

Randall Parker said at November 14, 2004 4:15 PM:


There is a positive correlation between brain size and intelligence. There is a negative correlation between intelligence and criminality.

Yes, of course there are non-criminal dummies. Yes, of course there are highly criminal brilliant people. But group average differences behavior do not disappear just because correlations are not all == 1.

Sample group bias? Studies done on criminality and intelligence have used very large sample groups that have been controlled for all sorts of other factors. A good starter book on criminality and human nature is Crime & Human Nature by James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein. It is a bit dated (about 20 years old) at this point. But it has a lot of good material in it. If anyone knows a more recent book of comparable quality I'd like to hear about it.

Labelling someone a Nazi because the person makes arguments for biological bases for behavior sounds like something a Leftist ideologue would say.

maria clark said at November 16, 2004 9:06 AM:

Can anyone please tell me if prematurity has links with badly presented academic work? My daughter was born at 29.6 weeks, but had stopped growing at 28 weeks, the standard of her school work is excellent but she has problems constantly with teachers regarding her presentation which is often the reason she receives lower grades. Thank you.

Kim said at April 17, 2005 12:05 PM:

Have most of you had or even known anyone who has has a premature child ? Most of the women i
n the NIcu did not use drugs or ask for it to happen because they didn't seek medical help.

I had boy girl twins and 30 weeks gestation and now they are 3. My little girl was very sick in the hospotal for 8 weeks and my little boy was in for 6 weeks and had little probelms for his age - he coasted through. The reason I gave birth early was because I was having twins and because I got very ill with the flu and that turned into bronchitits. The docs gave me zithromax twice and never told me not to take Tums with it - nor were there any labels as they have now on the package saying not take them together or close together in time. It was a mess, I coyldn;t breath and begged the docs to help me since I had no idea whi I was not getting better. I had my water break - I believe from all the coughing.

Anyway - my little girl is doing well - no problems with speech interliigence motor skills - etc. My little boy has a speech delay - seems deviant more than any other child I have worked with ( previous childcare exp) Know that I Know that the 2004 study states that the grey matter is lower is very upsetting and sad for me since I now can see what the correlcation is to his behavior and speech to why he seems to not care or speak in clear sentances. I see all the effects of that with my child and am really going to see if extensive therapy will help in for the future. A childs brain is still growing and can make new connections up to the age of 10 - so I am hopeful.
For all the parents out there who have little boys - it is imporatnt not too give up and get help for them when they are young so that they can have the best posibble lives and be a productive member of society.

Sue said at June 3, 2005 8:05 PM:

My grandson was born 2 mos premature & is now 2yrs 5 mos old. His speech & language are very minimal & he stumbles quite often when walking. Other than that he is fine. Drs. are suggesting he may have "brain cognitive atrophy", that his brain may have stopped growing. His overall development has continued to progress, he shows no signs of any retardation. Has anyone ever heard of the above condition or problems with walking/stumbling in preemies? We were made aware of the potential for speech problems from the beginning, but in my research of the long term effects of premature birth I have not found anything on the other subjects. Any info would be most appreciated.

Pam said at June 26, 2005 11:22 PM:

Does anyone know of any websites that are dedicated to the long term effects of preemies? I was born 2 1/2 months early (sorry I don't know what that is in weeks) in November of 1979, and I have "medical mysteries" (that I like to call them) that no one else in my family has, so it's not like a heriditary thing. My hair is really thin (partly heriditary, although no one else in my family - immediate or secondary (cousins) - has that problem, and my doctor did tests the first time he saw me on it, and everything came back "normal". Another thing is that I am also the only one in my family who tends to burn (never tan) all the time. Like I can't go outside for 5 min without burning. (and am I the only one who gets excited over #70 sunscreen??? lol). No one else in my family (seriously no one) gets burnt, they all tan. My mom thinks I didn't get enough pigment in my skin b/c I was born so early, compared to my brother and sister (who were both born full term), among other things. So anyone have any ideas on why I am the way I am? So different and odd? lol Thanks

Michael Hurst said at July 26, 2005 5:23 PM:

This issue has recently come to my attention, long term effects of premature birth that is. I was born 24 weeks. My weight was, at one point in time, under one pound. I was reading your article and became very concerned when I crossed the section referring to reducing the rate of premature births due to negative correlation with crime. Basically implying that less intelligent people commit crimes. This I will agree but currently I am attending a college university and beating the bias of your argument. My mother was never hooked on drugs or alcohol. With the invention of technology mankind has been able to help life continue on. You yourselves are using this technology to speak against the rate of premature births. At least these births are happening. There is not only the notion of nature, with technology human is allowed more time to nuture that which has the potential for life.

sameer said at July 28, 2005 11:50 AM:

dear friends,
my son 2 months premature means he born in 7 months,he has slight problem in walking,he is not touching his back side of his foot properly when he is walking fast and when he is walking slowly that time he is his foot is correct but his bump is slight bend,could u please give some advic.
waiting for ur reply
thank you

Howard said at August 3, 2005 6:39 AM:

Re: Sameer's Post. My younger brother was an extremely low birthweight premature baby. He had a similar foot problem which was solved by non-surgical means. He had to use apecial shoes for a few months when he was about two years old. Take your son to an orthopedic specialist. Incidentally my brother is now a legislative assistant in a large state legislature and has been a sucessful campaign manager in a number of politicial contests.

Sabrina Hollon said at September 14, 2005 4:07 PM:

My twin daughters were born at 35 weeks, 5 weeks premature. They are almost seven now, and are in speech therapy and are not doing as well in reading and math as they should be for their age. I feel that their prematurity is one of the causes. They seem younger than they are. They seem about 5 and 1/2 and they are almost seven. They are very intelligent girls with a good memory of facts and events. Reasoning ability appears to be good and they are good artists(I have a master's degree in art education). How long do the effects of prematurity last? Someone told me they could last until age seven. Is this true? Also, is there anything in particular that I need to be doing to advance them as far as possible? Thanks for any advice you can give.

Christine said at October 16, 2005 6:35 AM:

My 2 year old son was born at 27/28 weeks gestational age, he weighed 1 1/2 lbs. I have read all of the possible causes for prematurity on this site and wonder, I don't smoke, drink, or do druga, or have STDs, I was 24 when he was born and having a perfect pregnancy according to my Dr. What may have been the cause? My son walked a week after his first birthday and has very good comprehension skills, however, he is delayed in his speech. What other delays do I have to look forward to. I am a teacher so learning disabilities for me are not an issue, I can deal with that, but how could my husband and I handle the social issues?

Clare said at December 24, 2005 12:28 PM:

Hi - I have 2 premature boys (32 weeks and 35 weeks). My boys are now 3 and 2 and are doing great. My 32 weeker seems just slightly delayed on gross motor skills and speech in the first 2 years. He also had a lot of asthma like problems which seem to be completely under control now. We also worked through some oral aversion issues. Both my kids have an egg and peanut allergy which I wonder is related to all the antibiotics. He was caught up at 2 years. Both are super smart kids. My 3 year old is starting to read. (question, aren't a lot of boys delayed on speech, initially, whether premature or not?) Our kids have brought us so much joy and are happy and everyone in the family loves them so much. We could not imagine life without them. My husband and I have no doubt that they will live productive, happy lives.

So, I have pretty much a perfect medical history all my life.. did a lot of running in my younger years.. I never smoked or did drugs..always had normal physicals. I never drank excessively and never when pregnant. So.. here I am on my third pregnancy, getting checkups every 2 weeks, on progeterone...My water broke early again at 26 weeks. I am almost at 30 weeks on bed rest in the hospital.

I would love if doctors could figure out why women like me are having issues. I really respect all the doctors who are helping me. ...but they really have so few tools to figure out why some women have so many problems. I think some effort should be put into developing more predictive tests...i.e. some more blood tests or other ultrasound tests.. other than the cervical length check. (Mine was always long and closed)

If the doctors had better tests and tools, I think it could help prevent prematurity.

Daniella said at December 28, 2005 6:40 AM:

Hello, I am a 22 yr-old female. I am from Brazil, and was told by my family that I was born a Preemie. I seem to be doing fine, except for the fact that I have iron-deficiency anemia and it's very hard for me to gain weight. Can you give me tips and advice to take care of/deal with this? Thank you very much in advance.



Jill said at January 5, 2006 1:13 PM:

I found this article interesting. Some of it was insightful but I can't agree that drug use and STD's are at fault for the majority of preemie births. It also bothers me that some of this article implies that preemies won't add anything to society and are just a financial burden. I myself was born 10 weeks premature. I haven't had any major long term problems and neither has my brother who was born 5 weeks premature. I know I am lucky.

Anna Fagan said at January 11, 2006 10:05 PM:

We have a grandson who was a premature baby. He is a handsome boy of 22 now and a good boy but he is not a good mixer and not too confident and relly no friends. He's never done drugs or been with a girl. He has gone to a community college but has trouble with math and now he's having problems with germs he's afraid to be around people. He can't get a decent job because he doesn't fit in or know the basics is ther any way he can get help he's not stupid just has social problems.thank you

Carl said at March 22, 2006 8:52 AM:

I have two daughters who were both born premature. My older daughter is 19, the younger is 15. They are both healthy, strong, extremely intelligent, have above average reading skills. My younger daughter, who was the smaller of the two at 1 pound 15 ounces, does have a slight motor function deficit, but is an honor student and athlete. I have seen few if any abnormalities in behavior in either of them aside from a heightened sensitivity to sound. I had been concerned from their births that there might be unknowns down the road to face, but so far havent seen anything out of the realm of normalcy. I might remind the posters that Albert Einstein was a premie. I guess it didnt affect his intelligence.

shawn said at April 27, 2006 12:37 PM:

As a mother of one of the premature baby boys you so haphazardly speak of, I have a message to the group that did the study, I take serious offense to the opinion that this can be lowered by isolating smoking mothers. Yes, drug abusers need to be treated by doctors and maybe even isolated from the substances that they abuse, but to lump a smoker in this group is a bit much. My son was born 8+ weeks early, weighing in at 8lbs 9oz, so much for the low birth wieght story, his lungs were under developed and he had no sucking reflex, but he was well worth saving. He does have a speach problem, but he is far above average in math. He just turned 8 years old, has a lot of friends and is a very loving child. As for you and your take on the higher criminal element, did you ever think maybe all this free love and no spanking might be the problem. Use your big old brains boys, crime started going up severly every since the 60's, what really changed? The way we are raising our kids, that's what. Young adults have no sense of consequences anymore, they don't coorleate right and wrong with rewards and punishment anymore. Try studying that.More kids are flunking school now too, maybe we ought to bring back the paddle. If the children knew that not doing their homework would have results that kids understand, ei spanking, I just bet more kids would be doing better in school. It may be to late for teenagers but we can still get a handle on the elementary kids.

kim said at May 1, 2006 2:17 PM:

I wrote a little something about the premature birth thing to the "men" who said that women you have premature babies do drugs - or do not seek proper medical assistence. Again - I will say that is normally not the case as I wistensed personally at the NICU.
Also - for the women who said she wished they had a preterm labor test -- Yes they now do which is fantastic. I wish I had been given one at ea of my bi weekly obgyn visits the last 3 mo of my pregancy with b/g twins. My water broke at 30 weeks. The tests checks the fluid and I guess there is a marker in it that tells the lab whether the person is about to have contraction - go into labor early etc. I was having sligh aches in my upper back and my doc said that was normal and then a week later my water just broke. I never thought that the odd ache was unusual for me since I was on a first pregancy with twins, had gained 50+ pounds and even asked my doc about it. I did have the doc check my cervix and it was normal - but that often is not enough to determine if someone will deliver early.

However --- now the docs have a tests that can confirm or deny with almost 100% certainty if someone will give birth early. It is a great test for someone who has had preterm labor before - or late term miscarriage. which is sad I think it should be a gold standard test for anyone having multiples or someone who is compalining of not feeling just right or with a history of problems.

Christine said at October 30, 2006 3:22 AM:

Hi to anyone interested. I had (breech) boy twins in 1982 at 29 weeks (1410gms & 1450gms). I was told at the time that they had no hope of suvival (especially being identical boys?????), and it is true that it was a hard slog with respirators, pneumothorax, hyaline membrane disease, apnoea and all the rest. Once leaving hospital I was told that they would be severely brain affected by the oxygen they received and most probably blind. They were small, and DID seem to have difficulties adjusting to main stream school, and one of them had speech problems (which I worked at with therapy until fixed). It DID take until nearly high school before they picked up, and then they even surpassed their fellow students (academically BUT NEVER physically!!!). They are now 24, both married, and have academically achieved brilliance - Honours students doing doctorates.
Please never give up on your preemies. I have living proof that what the doctors say is not always true.

Ayshah said at November 6, 2006 12:28 PM:

Hi, i'm a 16 year old girl, who was born prematurely.I was very worried after i read an article saying, premature babies have smaller brains and have problems academically. i always thought i was normal like the other kids, but i thought about it more, like how i cant socialize with other people and how i cant talk in front of a large group.i will admit that i have problems but i can also say that i excel in math,science and other school subjects, but what i really wanted to know from all this is, can a premature person get some type of brain damage or symptoms later in life?

strider1243 said at November 8, 2006 8:09 PM:

you SUCK stop bragin.

ayshah said at November 9, 2006 12:56 PM:

i wasnt bragging:) lol. i just wanted to let everyone know that premature people arent less able, thats all.

craig perches said at April 5, 2007 4:42 AM:

Hi I am a 27 year old black male in the military. I was born premature at 2lbs and six ounces. Over the years I noticed problems remembering things and lack of attention when people are talking to me. I am not really that social and have a hard time with public speaking. My grades in high school were not all that great but i managed to pass. I have been wondering for a long time whether these conditions might be related to me being born premature. Then I came across this article and most of it makes sense. Is there any test that can be done to prove this? Also I used to be in the band in high school and I noticed that once I would reach a certain level of performance on an instrument I couldn't progress any further. If I stop playing for a while and started playing again its like i would have to learn the instrument all over again. I tried college but I failed all of my classes. I am really concerned about this and would like some more information if possible.

kat said at July 9, 2007 7:34 AM:

hi i would just like to ask a question.

i was born a premature baby, 3 months to be exsact. i did not suffer any brain damage, however i have been told that i suffered from hulim lung desease and i do have scars on my cheast from it. i am now 17 years old and i smoke. am i putting my self at risk?

Evy of Canada said at August 25, 2007 4:01 PM:

While educating myself on the challenges that face premature babies in later years, I came across this website on a Google search. The insights offered by the health professionals, parents and the prematurely born persons themselves, has increased my awareness of the entire subject. Lucky is the preemie who has intelligent, loving and patient parents. Heaven help the premature child who is further damaged by abusive and overly-controlling
parents who rob their child of future happiness - even in later years.

My precious prematurely born friend, I understand you now. I love you ... no matter what!
You still have special talents, intelligence, tender ways, and love in your heart. Wish more
people would be like you. Please have a happy day!

Andrea said at March 28, 2008 9:09 AM:

I am looking at adopting a biracial boy who was born at 28 weeks and weighed just under 1,000 grams. He was Cocaine and Oxycontin positive at birth and successfully withdrew from these substances. He is now 15 months (13 months corrected) and has remaining asthma issues and truncal hypotonia. His Apgar was 3 at 1 minute and 6 at 5 minutes. He is described as meeting his cognitive milestones for his corrected age and rolled over when he was supposed to. My husband and I are more concerned about lasting cognitive issues and wondered if anyone has any further information available.
Huge thanks to anyone who can help.

Katie said at May 2, 2008 5:55 AM:

I'm 38, and was born at 30 weeks, back in 1970, via forceps. It was a traumatic birth for me and my mum. I weighed 2lbs 13oz. My experience is complicated by later life traumas - abuse and bullying. I have difficulties with relating, life long depression, and other effects on my mental health, including dissociation. However there seem to be no problems with my intelligence - indeed I have an 2:1 grade English degree, back in 1992. [This is in the UK].
The cause of my early arrival in the world was partly physical factors of my mum, but also problems in my parents' relationship, which grew into domestic violence as I got older. Both my parents have untreated depression. I am the lucky one who is getting professional support now - the support I never had as a baby and child, to grow up emotionally healthy.

Zama Cele said at May 23, 2008 12:56 AM:

I read an article about preterm twins. They were boys, and they were behaving in different ways at the age of 8. The first twin behaved alright during his years of growth, his teacher started complaining about his hyperactive behaviour. But the other started walking on his own at the age of 7 and has a severe speech impairment.

POFF said at October 12, 2008 5:56 PM:

Wow I just read some of the extremely ignorant comments on this thread and am shocked and quite frankly disgusted as a mother of an extremely premature baby- I certainly do not think that 'some should just be written off'. My baby was born prematurely and I do not have either STDs, have ever smoked or been on any drugs. My Dr has never got to the bottom of the cause but now suspects I might have Lupus and several years on am having further testing. My baby is now a very healthy and intelligent two year old and Kurt, Randall and co where do you get off judging us all. I know several women who have had premature babies and I can assure you none of them used drugs or had STDs! Its great to know that there are people out there who are so open minded-maybe you should be sterilised!

Rose alama said at November 28, 2008 4:28 AM:

I always give birth to premature babies 1st borne i gave birth when it was seven months old (alive second borne 6 months old (died) what might be the problem and what can I do in order to avoid giving birth to premature babies. I am in need of another child but I am afraid. Kindly advice

Stacey said at August 8, 2009 8:00 PM:

I think you also have to look at the average age females giving birth. The optimum age for a female body to give birth is between 16 and 26. Although you are hearing more and more of females in their mid thirties plus reproducing. This increases risks not only of premature birth but even a much larger range of Deformities such as Cerebral Palsy and Autism.

I also think that any females over 50 should not be allowed to reproduce. Not only for the risks of birth but the fact that they themselves may not be able to continue looking after the child physically.

Also the increase weight of society these days. Obese women carry higher risks during birth. I am a 25 year old obese female and I am currently 7 months pregnant and although so far my pregnancy is normal I have had to be extra vigilant as I am at a high risk of a vast majority of conditions just because of my weight. I do eat healthy and do not smoke or do drugs. I have had 2 glasses of red wine throughout my pregnancy. I have changed my diet slightly staying away from certain foods and have increased my intake food but split it into smaller meals through out the day. And have attended pregnancy yoga to strengthen my body. Although thats because of a choice I have made.

How many obese women would not change their diets or exercise throughout pregnancy to try and reduce these risks???

Anonymous said at March 5, 2010 9:04 AM:

@anon August 10, 2004 2:57 PM:

The median gestational age at delivery:
39 weeks in Blacks and Asians
40 weeks in white Europeans.

Amena Ziegler said at May 13, 2010 8:52 PM:

Hello, I am a 14 year old girl. I was born 1 pound 6 oz. (I think that I was born about )and I had to have laser eye surgery and open heart surgery(which included placing clamps/staples in my heart). Although I am great at English(I'm going into Advanced English next year as a Freshman in high school) I have a really tough time with Math. I get C's or B's if I'm lucky. I'm wondering how these things will effect me in the long-run and how I can succeed in math or how to make math more enjoyable, it seems like the better I do in a subject,the more I enjoy it. That's probably why I love English. Is there anyone else born premature out there who is also struggling with math because my friend doesn't believe the statistics that preemies can have a tough time with math.

Sean said at May 22, 2010 7:46 AM:

Hi, I was born 24 weeks premature. I was bron 1 lb 10 ounces. I also have a tough time with math. I would just like to say that the NICU does an extraodinary job. They kept my family calm and collected during my ordeal. The doctors said that I would always be small and weak. Hoever, I am 16 years old and I am 6'3". I also have a size 17 shoe! I just want to say thankyou for everything they have done for me. God Bless.

Sean said at May 22, 2010 7:46 AM:

Hi, I was born 24 weeks premature. I was bron 1 lb 10 ounces. I also have a tough time with math. I would just like to say that the NICU does an extraodinary job. They kept my family calm and collected during my ordeal. The doctors said that I would always be small and weak. Hoever, I am 16 years old and I am 6'3". I also have a size 17 shoe! I just want to say thankyou for everything they have done for me. God Bless.

Jasmine said at June 22, 2010 1:10 PM:

Wow.that's a blessin.- I just had my son at 24 weeks he's been in the hospital now for 56 days.its a tough road.I'm taking it day to day.he was born 1 pound 7 ozs.

kitreena said at July 12, 2010 6:53 AM:

My friend 27 year old born 2 months premature means he born in 7 months,he is a good martial artist,but specially about his brain,he can guess the future.

James said at August 12, 2010 12:45 AM:

I was born two months early and weighted at 3lbs 2oz. The doctor saved me by gave my lungs a shot of miracle steroid. It turned out the result that i have a case of asthma for lifetime.
20 years later, I am a deaf gifted-athlete and a starter pitcher at a college university. I am getting along with society so well and the party life is even better. I assure that nothing serious matters with white matter. Anyway, at the point, I have some thoughts about my premature being that I have several abnormal problems. For instance, I can be sometime out of the blue with people with my talk and body language. It reflects me as random characteristic to some people. Some actions show them bad impressions about me. Specifically, I have own problem such as paranoid about future events, anybody around me, and even short-term memory that i am a bit over-worried of. Hard to explain. Nevertheless, close friends of mine made some similar confessions to me as they said i am one of a kind because none of theirs friends are like me. I have a special kind of intelligence. Something that I can read your emotion and mind. I can feel the future scenario will gonna be great or worse. Sometime my dream gave me accurately pictures of future happen that i can see particular in the reality. Additional, the way I play with words, i can go far beyond in the hearing world, only if i can hear and speak well. Yeah, English is always be my second language. I am naturally born with America Sign Language. I live all my life with big deaf community.
My opinion is that it's all about genetic and growth experience.

Lance said at December 1, 2010 3:42 PM:

regarding math skills, if you can manage a C or better in school, your math skills are not suffering and are at least average. Most people, regardless of full term birth or not, are not comfortable with math. Some folks are gifted in certain cognitive areas such as math and so it comes easier to them. However, what ultimately determines your potential in a subject such as math is your interest or how much fun you can find in learning about it. If you want to improve in math, you must first figure out how to make it fun. If you can find the fun, you will excel. If you (or others) constantly make you feel judged in a subject, it will be extremely hard to find the fun in it. Many of my peers and classmates consider me to be a math genius because I enjoy and therefore excel in it, even though I'm no where near being a true (IQ) genius. Anyway, wisdom is far more valuable to a person than raw brain power. Many "smart" people suffer severely in the wisdom and even basic common logic department, yet fail to realize their short comings because of their arrogance, so "smarter" isn't necessarily an advantage for living a full happy life.

Turbo said at December 3, 2010 9:20 PM:

I was premature under 2 pounds. I could fit in my mother's and father's hand in 1967. Everybody thought I wasn't paying attention for 31 years and I fought with my whole family but I wasn't violent. I was misjudged and put on psychotic pills for 3 years and recently put on pills by accident by my fast words. But my actions are always instinctively and goodharded. I do a lifetime of thinking in one year and then once again, my brain is just struggling for more life as the way was born and I've life longer then all of my friends with money or without money and then I feel like I die more from this life flashing before me everyday with a to do list that's larger than any born normal human being or animal. Thank God I have good labor because my body cannot keep up with my overpowering brain and fast digestive system from craving protein. Even though I listen to so many words, I see my life flash from the beginning to the end like my large brain compared to innerbody organs and bone structure... I feel like one big neuron that outruns my body but that I can control all of my muscles and everything internal in my whole body and that's why I'm happy but if I do get mad I feel like a very smart wolf that's watching all the grazers of life. But then most of the time I fell like a pure innocent child. But I have a lot of role models to be proud of that my girlfriend showed me like great leaders like Roosevelt, Einstein, and Isaac Newton. Now I'm learning to just keep my red meat intake like it's saving my life and caffeine. I don't take any additive pills and I try to avoid noises and sunlight. Sometimes I feel like the boy in the plastic bubble with thin skin. But I'm glad I had enough time to research who I am for the price of love. Half animal, half alien, vampire premo, underneath Pluto and Scorpio. If anybody has any answers to what we can do or cannot to make a better future for our love ones to harness our powers, please e-mail me.

val said at January 10, 2011 12:59 AM:

Turbo, my son was born prematurely 22 years ago and he also experiences the sensory overload that you mention. I've recently noticed that he tends to yawn when he's bombarded with information - or even falls asleep during lectures at university - and this peculiarity must be due to the fact that he came out 'half-baked' (this is the crude expression used by grannies in my country for premies). On the other hand, he is a VERY talented artist and a WONDERFUL human being. I believe that you are a lovely special person too. To answer your question, accept your uniqueness as a gift - this is what it is. You are blessed to be more sensitive, more self-analyzing, more aware than people born 'normally'. While this can be taxing, it is also a privilege. And no, you are not violent or aggressive - you simply are the ultimate fighter, as you needed to be... Meditate, take yoga classes - or practice at home - to tame your body's chemistry and perceive yourself as the extraordinary creation that you are - because whenever we lose some thing, we gain another to compensate. Stay on the bright side, as this is where you belong; you don't need to harness your self - just let love permeate you and you will live your fantastic, happy and useful life to the full. God bless.

anonymous said at November 1, 2011 11:59 AM:

Does being born three month premature have a negative effect a male sexually?

Heath aka Rocco said at March 2, 2012 8:21 AM:

Hey guys.. I was born 4 weeks Premature & from what i was told i was placed in a incumbacor for the first few weeks of my life due to being boen 2 lbs & dcos i couldnt breathe on my own & during childhood throughout adulthood ive had a minor speech/stutter problem, nothing too serious & ive had lots of friends n been in a number of different Relationships with Women etc.. I went on and completed High school n went to college/Uni for a year n didnt really have a learning problem n to this day ive always been very Athletic and good at Sports. Now im a 6'3 26yo man who is currently in a serious relationship and enjoying life.

Cheers.. Heath :)

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