Some diseases and conditions that affect children can often affect one gender more than the other. Though there are many reasons for this, sometimes it’s a mystery that researchers and scientists have yet to figure out. Though both girls and boys can be born preterm, a global study has revealed that baby boys are more likely to be stillborn or experience sudden infant death because of preterm birth.

Groundbreaking global studies on preterm birth and disability were carried out by nearly 50 researchers at 35 institutions across the world. These studies were launched in association with World Prematurity Day. The combined study found a shocking discovery which suggests that baby boys are at a higher risk of death and disability due to preterm birth than baby girls. These disabilities range from learning problems and blindness to deafness and motor problems, including cerebral palsy.

Team leader Professor Joy Lawn, a neonatologist and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, summed up the finding by commenting "baby boys have a higher likelihood of infections, jaundice, birth complications, and congenital conditions but the biggest risk for baby boys is due to preterm birth. For two babies born at the same degree of prematurity, a boy will have a higher risk of death and disability compared to a girl. Even in the womb, girls mature more rapidly than boys, which provides an advantage, because the lungs and other organs are more developed."

This discovery was just one of the many new confirmed findings on the disability and death of preterm infants, which is a huge global problem. Preterm birth accounts for one third of all newborn deaths worldwide. In addition to this, premature birth is responsible for over 10% of global disease for all ages and countries across the world.

In the last three years, over $25 billion has been spent on newborn, child, and maternal health. This was reported by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. Despite this however, less than 1% of the funds have been used to help stop or care for premature infants and newborn care.

The new global research has been conducted to draw attention to the issues caused by preterm birth and especially to the disastrous effects of premature birth on infant boys.

"With this comprehensive, priority research agenda, we have the roadmap to advance discovery, find new solutions to the problem of preterm birth, and evaluate effective strategies to scale up what we know can save lives of newborns," says Dr. Eve Lackritz, a pediatrician and a researcher at the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, an initiative of Seattle Children’s Hospital and the March of Dimes.

Source: March of Dimes Foundation (2013, November 14). Baby boys at higher risk of death, disability in preterm births. ScienceDaily.