Babies With Low Birth Weights Have a Higher Risk of Psychiatric Disorders
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics has good news and bad news for people born with significantly low birth weights. The good news? Babies with extremely low birth weights are less likely than others to develop alcohol or substance use disorders as adults. The bad news? Children with low birth weights are significantly more likely to experience other types of psychiatric issues later in life.
The study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University, found that extremely low weight babies were are a markedly high risk for psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety disorder, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The findings were especially troubling for underweight babies whose mothers received a full course of steroids prior to giving birth.
“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,” said Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster.
For the study, the researchers recruited 84 adult participants who weighed less than 1,000 grams (two pounds, two ounces) and 90 normal birth weight babies, all of which were born in Ontario between 1977 and 1982.
The findings showed that, once in their early 30’s, the babies with low birth weights were nearly three times less likely to experience issues with an alcohol or substance use disorder. However, they were also two and a half times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder compared to the adults with normal birth weights.
The most concerning findings were for those low birth weight babies who were given a full course of life-saving steroids before birth. These children had an even higher risk (nearly four and a half times) of developing a psychiatric disorder, and they were not protected from future alcohol or substance abuse disorders.