Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hidden epidemic of premature births

L’Osservatore Romano on January 10th published an article by Dr. Carlo Bellieni, in which he discusses the “hidden epidemic” of premature births. Dr. Bellieni who lectures in the Department of Obstetrics, Pediatrics, and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Siena, claims that there has been a significant increase in premature births in many countries. Italy he says says now has about 40,000 premature births annually. The article also says that premature births in France increased by 25% in a decade (between 1995 to 2005) and by 30% in the United Kingdom over the last 25 years, while in the United States there has been an increase of 20% since 1990.

The article claims that 13M (13,000,000) children are born prematurely every year, and 1M (1,000,000)of these children die, every year.

Dr Bellieni identified postponment of childbearing until after age 35 as one of the causes of the rise of premature births and also pointed to IVF as a factor. It is an ironic twist of fate according to Dr. Bellieni that public health agencies respond to the teenager, but ignore the epidemic of problem pregnancies of middle age.

Dr Bellieni also refers to a “paradoxical inverse shame” in which one speaks freely about “sex and contraception” but “absolutely does not speak about the desire and instinct to have children.”

While we have not seen an accurate translation of the article in L’Osservatore Romano it appears that the link between earlier abortion and subsequent prematurity has not been mentioned in the article

According to a German study, published by the “Reduce Preterm Risk Coalition” last year and which joins a solid body of other evidence, there is significant increased risk of preterm births for children who are brought to term after a previous abortion. This study found that for a woman with one prior abortion, VPB (under 32-34 weeks' gestation) the risk is boosted by 30%, while more than one prior abortion increases relative VPB risk by 90%. see report

Preterm birth also raises a child's risk for cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy, visual impairment, hearing disability, gastrointestinal injury, respiratory distress, and severe infections. Those born under 28 week's gestation have 129 times the risk of cerebral palsy as a full-term newborn, according to 2008 study by Dr. Eveline Himpens et al.