Findings: Girls may get too big
A new study shows that premature girls catch up to and sometimes surpass their full-term peers.
Parents of premature baby girls should be worried that their daughters may grow too large too fast, a new study warns.
Premature girls generally have no problem catching up to full-term girls in growth and weight. In fact, 15 percent of those girls born prematurely will grow beyond average and be obese by the time they are 20 years old, reports Dr. Maureen Hack, neonatologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland.
The study, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, followed 103 premature boys and 92 premature girls-infants who were born about two months early. The report notes that premature boys do not share the same risks for obesity.
Overall, premature girls have a lower rate of obesity than the rest of the female population. But Janice Guhl, spokeswoman at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, says Hack's study is significant because it warns parents of premature babies to be on guard against their children becoming obese.
"You would think they would continue on their low weight, but they actually do catch up to their counterparts," Guhl says.
Dr. Alisha Rogers, a pediatrician at St. Bernard Hospital in Englewood on the Southwest Side of Chicago, explained that parents of premature babies become excited when their tiny children start to grow and gain weight. But the rapid growth sprees experienced by the girls can lead to health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"If parents are made aware of this, then they could monitor the children as they are growing," Rogers says. "They need to be aware that obesity sets you up for other health problems down the line."
Parents should be particularly wary of rapid growth in the teen years. One antidote to obesity in girls, Rogers suggests, is physical activity. She suggests that parents try to convince their daughters to become involved in sports.
However, one pediatrician disputes Hack's finding.
Dr. Geraldo Reyes, director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet, says the study examined only a small number of patients who were all born in the same hospital. "To reach conclusions on a small amount and then suggest that girls that were premature are going to have cardiovascular problems is stretching it," Reyes says.
-- Danielle Braff, Medill News Service