Shantini Paranjothy, David Fone, D Phil, Frank Dunstan – Cardiff University; William Watkins, Melanie Hyatt, Joanne Demmier, Ronan Lyons – Swansea University.
A team of researchers at the Farr Institute CIPHER and NCPHWR investigated the risk of emergency hospital admissions for breathing problems during childhood associated with early premature births.
Premature birth, when a baby is born early before the 37 weeks of pregnancy has been completed, is associated with breathing problems, impairment in growth and development of the brain or central nervous system and can affect educational outcomes. Premature birth rates have increased over the last 10 years and the long term effects and implications for health are a concern for doctors and public health.
Many studies have focused on babies born before 32 weeks but there are few studies for those born between 34 – 36 weeks. This research project studied births ranging from before 32 weeks up to 42 weeks of pregnancy.
The team of Farr Institute CIPHER researchers studied health records for 318 613 children born in Wales between 1998 and 2008. These records were made anonymous so that individuals couldn’t be identified.
The study focused on looking at the emergency admissions to hospital for breathing problems in children up to the age of 5 years.
The results of the study showed that the risk of admission to hospital with breathing problems decreased with each week up to 40 to 42 weeks; meaning that the health risks to the baby are reduced for infants born later in pregnancy.
Even at 39 weeks there was an increased risk of emergency hospital admissions for breathing problems compared to babies born at 40 – 42 weeks.
Importantly, the research demonstrated the rich insights that can be gained from studying large scale linked health records to explore the causes of disease and healthcare use in children, particularly focusing on age at birth.
By using data in research, the team has been able improve our understanding of the number of infants affected. The number of children under- 5 with breathing problems linked to early birth is significantly large and as a result has an impact on health services and costs to the NHS.