Recently, researchers from the Federal University of Rio
Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, analyzed
data from 12 previous studies that included 1,787 participants. They discovered a 300 percent higher risk for developing ADHD later in life among babies that had a shorter
gestation time and weighed very little at birth. Their findings were published in the December issue of Pediatrics.
Researchers focused on the most vulnerable of preemie and
low birth weight newborns—babies born before 32 weeks and babies weighing less
than 3.3 pounds—and compared them to babies born near, at or past 37 weeks and
weighing 5.5 pounds or more.
And what did they find?
“There is robust evidence that very preterm or very low
birth weight individuals have an increased risk of ADHD,” said senior study
author Dr. Carlos Renato Moreira-Maia. ADHD is a disorder whose symptoms include difficulty paying attention and controlling impulses.
And while that diagnosis is challenging news for parents, the good news is that there are steps they can take to mitigate those
risks. Joel Nigg, director of the ADHD and Attention Disorders
Program at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, wrote in an accompanying
commentary that women who have
preemies or underweight babies might still be able to decrease the risks of ADHD in
Nigg recommends breastfeeding infants as long as possible. Extended
breastfeeding has been linked to a lower
likelihood of developing ADHD. Also, as parents are more educated about the risks, they can anticipate and tailor treatment to their child as they develop.
If you are aware that your child is at a higher
risk, you can identify warning signs that might otherwise go undetected until much later. Early identification and intervention mean
that your child can get help sooner rather than later.
In the end, the more we know, the better we can advocate for
our kids and their needs.