Babies born at a low birth weight may experience cognitive and motor deficits as teens, even if these deficits aren't classified as disabilities, say researchers from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Michigan State University.
A group of 474 teens who'd weighed less than 4.4 pounds (2,000 grams) at birth took intelligence and motor skills tests at age 16 so that researchers could compare them with peers born at a normal weight.
The teens born at a low birth weight had intelligence scores that fell within the normal range, but their scores were significantly lower than those of teens born at a normal weight. In addition, the low birth-weight teens had significantly more motor problems, which ranged from difficulty with handwriting or letter formation to coordination or posture problems.
In this study, being male and spending time on a ventilator as an infant were factors that predicted a teen's risk for developing motor problems. The more time spent on a ventilator, the greater the risk for motor problems.
What This Means to You. The results of this study suggest that problems associated with low birth weight may persist long past infancy, and kids born at a low birth weight may experience subtle deficits in intelligence and motor skills. If you're pregnant, you can reduce the risk of low birth weight by getting regular prenatal care, exercising and eating right during pregnancy, and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. If your teen was born at a low birth weight and you have concerns about his or her motor or cognitive skills, talk to your doctor.
Source: Agnes H. Whitaker, MD; Judith F. Feldman, PhD; John M. Lorenz, MD; Sa Shen, PhD; Fiona McNicholas, MD; Marlon Nieto, BA; Dawn McCulloch, MSEd; Jennifer A. Pinto-Martin, PhD; Nigel Paneth, MD, MPH; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, October 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: November 2006