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Premature Births Can Affect Adult Relationships, Study Finds

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By Cassie Kreitner, Senior Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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Paging Cupid to the delivery room: Carrying to term may set baby up for a more favorable love life in adulthood.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, twenty-somethings born preterm (before 37 weeks) are less likely to move in with a romantic partner or have sexual intercourse than their peers born even one week later.

Researchers found that those who were born early or late preterm were also less likely to find themselves attractive, and more likely to still live with their parents. The findings, which compared survey responses from 753 twenty-something adults born in Finland between 1985 and 1989, showed that preterm birth can have an adverse effect on social health, in addition to the more obvious physical effects.

Previous studies have found that individuals born preterm might be more cautious and less risk-taking than those born at full term, which might also be reflected in our findings of lower likelihood of romantic relations," says lead study author Dr. Tuija Mannisto, a researcher and fellow in clinical chemistry with the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Northern Finland Laboratory Centre Nordlab in Oulu, Finland.

While preemie birth rates have fortunately dropped in the US, if your baby is born a few weeks early, don’t panic—it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is destined to be a lonely, unhappy adult.

“What we have seen with kids is that babies who are born preterm tend to be more risk averse and shy and more fearful,” says Dr. Kristi Watterberg, a neonatologist at the University of New Mexico and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“But on the other hand, we have seen that these kids tend to grow up and develop a good life, a life the kids and their parents are happy with.”

One of the best things you can do to help your preemie along is to provide plenty of skin-to-skin contact in the first few weeks. Holding baby in a soothing way helps them develop while also preventing overstimulation. Mimicking the sounds they make is also a great way to help them engage in their surroundings and start building their social skills early on.

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