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Advanced Age Not Responsible For Low Birth Weight, Preterm Birth

Babies who are born at a low birth weight often have more respiratory, cognitive, and neurological problems, while preterm babies are more likely to have heart defects, brain damage, lung disorders, and delayed development.


A mother's age is not responsible for an elevated risk of low birth weight and preterm birth, according to researchers.

Some studies have indicated that there is an elevated risk of low birth weight (under 2.5 kilograms) and preterm birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) for women aged 35 or older. However, a recent study - conducted by Mikko Myrskylä, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, and Alice Goisis, from the London School of Economics in the U.K. - suggests that a mother's age is not the reason.

The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the reasons are more likely to be associated with individual circumstances or behaviors that are more common in older adults.

Potential candidates for these factors could be fertility problems, which are connected with poor birth outcomes, maternal stress, and unhealthy behaviors.

"Our findings suggest that women should not be concerned about their age per se when considering to have a child," said Myrskylä. "It seems that individual life circumstances and behavioral choices are more important than age."

People deciding whether to postpone parenthood should take into account declining fertility and increases in the risk of miscarriage and birth complications. Stillbirths are relatively rare, but the risk remains higher for older women than their younger counterparts and increases in the final weeks of pregnancy.

There are, of course, many plus points of putting off motherhood until after age 35. Children of older mothers have been found to have fewer behavioral, social, and emotional difficulties.

According to another study conducted by Myrskylä and his colleague Kieron Barclay, at the London School of Economics, being born later is also associated with being healthier, taller, and obtaining more education.

Despite the risks, most women aged 35 and older will have a normal pregnancy with few birth complications, and go on to deliver a healthy baby.

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Katie Haller

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