a1 Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Approximately 10% of all babies worldwide are born preterm, and preterm birth is the leading cause of perinatal mortality in developed countries. Although preterm birth is associated with adverse short- and long-term health outcomes, it is not yet clear whether this relationship is causal. Rather, there is evidence that reduced foetal growth, preterm birth and the long-term health effects of both of these may all arise from a suboptimal intrauterine environment. Further, most infants born preterm also experience suboptimal postnatal growth, with potential adverse effects on long-term health and development. A number of interventions are used widely in the neonatal period to optimise postnatal growth and development. These commonly include supplementation with macronutrients and/or micronutrients, all of which have potential short-term risks and benefits for the preterm infant, whereas the long-term health consequences are largely unknown. Importantly, more rapid postnatal growth trajectory (and the interventions required to achieve this) may result in improved neurological outcomes at the expense of increased cardiovascular risk in later life.
(Received July 13 2012)
(Revised November 01 2012)
(Accepted November 27 2012)
(Online publication January 08 2013)