Late preterm birth associated with poor cognition in adulthood (Importance of Prenatals)

Late preterm birth is associated with lower performance on neurocognitive, visuospatial and executive functioning tests in adulthood, according to data published in Pediatrics.


Katie Heinonen, PhD, from the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues used data from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, comprised of 919 Finnish men and women born 1934-1944.  The patients underwent the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease Neuropsychological Battery (CERAD-NB) in late adulthood (mean age, 68.1 years).

Data indicate patients born late preterm scored poorer on word list recognition (P = .03) compared with those born at term.  Those born late preterm with basic or upper secondary education also scored lower on word list recognition, constructional praxis, constructional praxis recall, clock drawing, Mini-Mental State Examination, memory and CERAD scores (P < .05), according to data. This patient population was also more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (OR=2.7;; 95% CI, 1.14-6.38), according to researchers.  Heinonen and colleagues suggest several mechanisms that could explain this association.

“First, substantial brain development occurs during the last weeks of pregnancy, and the late preterm birth may affect these neurodevelopmental processes,” they wrote. “Second, neonatal morbidity associated with late preterm birth may add to the risk of brain injury and later neurocognitive impairment.”  Those with increased risk for impairments may also have an increased risk for neurological outcomes, they added.  Finally, the researchers suggest that the cause of preterm birth (ie, preeclampsia, hypertension, intrauterine growth restriction, and maternal smoking) may also contribute to the child’s neurocognitive impairment. – by Samantha Costa


Disclosure: Heinonen reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant

financial disclosures.


Heinonen K, et al. Pediatrics. 2015;;doi:10.1542/peds.2014-3556. March 9, 2015


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