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Premature babies at hyperactivity risk -study

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) Premature and low birthweight infants are up to three times more likely than bigger babies to suffer from hyperactive behaviour, according to a study published yesterday.

Danish research shows that babies born at 34-36 weeks have an 80 per cent increased risk of hyperkinetic disorder (HKD) than full-term infants.

Low attention span and impulsiveness are symptoms of HKD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

''Children born preterm, close to term, or at 37 or more completed weeks of gestation with low birthweights had an increased risk of clinically verifiable HKD,'' said Dr Karen Linnet of Aarhus University Hospital.

Low birthweight is a weight of less than 2,500 grams (5.5 lbs).

The link between extreme prematurity and a raised risk of behavioural problems and hyperactivity is known. But Linnet and her team have shown the risk is not limited to just very premature babies.

Charlotte Davies of the London-based baby charity Tommy's said the study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, showed a desperate need for more research into the causes of premature birth.

''All too often pregnancy complications, such as premature birth, are viewed as only affecting the family directly concerned, yet behavioural problems such as ADHD or HKD can have an effect on society as a whole,'' she said in a statement.

The researchers compared the birth records of 834 children born between 1980 and 1994 with HKD and 20,100 children with no behavioural problems.

Full-term babies who weighed less than 2,500 grams at birth were 90 percent more likely to develop the condition. The risk of HKD decreased with an increase in birthweight.

The researchers added that nine out of 10 of the babies that developed HKD were boys. The condition was diagnosed when the children were 2-18 years old.

REUTERS CH KP0848

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