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Psychiatric Study: Premature Birth Risks May Extend To Adulthood

A new psychiatric study believes that premature birth may be associated with mental disorders later in life. The research, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, took a different angle from prior studies linking mental problems and early birth because it examined the manifestation of psychiatric disorders during adulthood.

The increased risk of adult-onset mental illness is substantial, but most people born preterm enjoy a psychiatrically healthy life. The following figures represent the increased risk of mental disorders facing people born during 32 to 36 weeks' gestation:

• Nonaffective psychosis, 1.6 times more likely

• Major depressive disorder, 1.3 times more likely

• Bipolar affective disorder, 2.7 times more likely

The psychiatric risks increase further for infants born before 32 weeks' gestation.

When hospital negligence is the cause of a premature birth, the victim's family may be able to recover damages if the infant suffers serious harm. While the connection between preterm birth and adult-onset mental illness may be too disjointed to prove in court, it provides further evidence of the harm that infants are exposed to when prenatal mistakes are made.

Source: Psychiatric News, "Premature Birth Linked To Mental Illness In Adults," Leslie Sinclair, Aug. 3, 2012

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