Study: Teenage mothers more likely to have premature babies

TEENAGE mums are more likely to have premature babies, research reveals.

The risk is higher for younger teenage mothers than for older teenagers and, in the 14-17 group, the risk was greater in second pregnancies.

Results of the study, funded by Ireland’s Health Research Board, are published today in the open access journal, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Irish researchers looked at women aged 14 to 29 who had a live baby in the north west of England between January 2004 and December 2006.

They identified 3,636 women who were aged between 14 and 17 at the time of birth; 7,506 were aged 18-19 and 45,211 were 20-29.

They found there were parallels between social deprivation and teenage pregnancy and that more than one-third of the teenage mothers came from the most socially deprived areas.

Women who gave birth during their teenage years were at increased risk of pre-term and very pre-term delivery.

The risk was higher for younger teenage mothers than for older teenagers and in the 14-17 group the risk was greater in second pregnancies.

Dr Ali Khashan from University College Cork, who was involved in the study, said while it was likely that the premature birth risk was related to biological immaturity, it was also possible the increased risk of premature delivery in a second teenage pregnancy was related to numerous complicating factors, such as greater social deprivation and less prenatal care.

Last year, 2,223 teenagers in Ireland had babies, according to latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). 50 were aged under 16.

The number of teenagers having babies has been falling. In 2008 2,426 teenagers had babies, compared to 2001, when there were 3,087.

The study of teenage mums in England was led by Prof Louise Kenny, a Health Research Board clinician scientists and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cork University Hospital.

Prof Kenny said the results highlighted the need to prevent a second teenage pregnancy with potentially higher risk of adverse outcomes.

“A first pregnancy may be the first and only time a pregnant teenager interacts with health services and this opportunity should not be overlooked,” she said.

Prof Richard Green, director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre at Cork University Maternity Hospital said teenage pregnancy rates in Ireland were lower than in Britain, particularly among very young teenagers.

Nevertheless, he said, the study highlighted the importance of accurate statistical information that could inform policy for the most vulnerable in our society.


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