MONDAY, July 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Stressful events in childhood may increase a woman's risk having a preterm baby, a new study suggests.
The research included 200 mothers in Canada who provided information about stressful experiences when they were youngsters. One-third of the women had given birth preterm, while the others delivered at term.
Preterm birth is considered to be any birth occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. A normal pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks.
"All of the adverse childhood events that we asked about had to occur prior to the age of 18, and the average age of delivery in our study was 28 years. These adverse childhood events occurred, on average, 10 years or more before the women actually delivered," study co-author David Olson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta, said in a university news release.
He and his colleagues found that women who had two or more stressful events during childhood had double the risk of preterm birth, according to the study recently published in the journal BMC Medicine.
"Although not inevitable, childhood adversity can result in long-term impacts on health across the lifespan, including pregnancy outcomes," study co-author Kathleen Hegadoren, a professor of nursing at the university, said in the news release.
"Prenatal care providers need to ask pregnant women about past and current experiences that may have affected their health. In doing that, they can help women understand a potential link between life experiences and preterm birth risk," she said.
Preterm birth is the leading cause of death for children under age 5, and babies who survive are at increased risk for chronic lung problems, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.
The study only found an association between childhood stress and later preterm birth, rather than a cause-and-effect link, and researchers said more studies are needed. They hope to learn how to better identify women at risk for preterm birth and to develop early interventions.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about preterm labor and birth.