Controversial new research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology from the Netherlands suggests that babies born too late, or too early, are twice as likely to develop health and emotional disorders when they are older.

The researchers came to their conclusions following a study in the Netherlands involving 5,145 babies in Rotterdam. Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire on their child's behaviour at 18 and 36 months. When the results were analysed they showed that babies born both pre and post term (42 weeks) were almost twice as likely to have behavioual and emotional problems, such as ADHD.

The study's lead author Dr Hanan El Marroun said: "We were aware of potential complications caused by babies born prematurely, but these findings suggest there is also a greater risk of long-term problems among babies born too late."

The overall rate of emotional and behavioural problems was 2 per cent, she explained, rising to 4 per cent among early and late babies. She suggested that in late term babies the womb tends to be bigger, meaning the placenta cannot provide the level of nutrients and oxygen babies require, leading to abnormal physical, emotional and behavioural development.

The doctor also proposed inducing labour or offering a c-section at between 40 and 41 weeks, "because it might reduce emotional problems and has the advantage of pre-empting some of the other complications involved when women give birth to bigger babies".

Posted by Penny Hosie