New research reveals that delivery at 37 or 38 weeks of pregnancy is linked to increased respiratory symptoms throughout childhood.

“Our results show that early–term-born children up to 10 years of age had up to 70% greater risk of respiratory symptoms and up to 50% greater inhaler use than similarly aged term-born children,” Martin O. Edwards, BM, MRCPCH, from the Institute of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Early–term-born children aged 5 years or greater also had increased risk of chest infections and antibiotic use when compared with those born at full term.”

Edwards and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional population-based study of 2,845 children aged 1 to 10 years (545 early–term-born; 2,300 full–term-born) to determine if those born at 37 to 38 weeks have greater respiratory symptoms and health care use during childhood than children born at full term.

Early–term-born children aged less than 5 years (n = 272) showed a higher prevalence of wheeze (48.2%) compared with children born full-term (n = 1,123; 39%) (OR = 1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-1.9).

Early–term-born children aged less than 5 years had twice the odds of inhaler medication use (OR = 2; 95% CI, 1.4-2.9) and higher admission rates to the hospital in the first year of life (OR = 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2-2.1).

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