Premature birth and relationships
Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) causes problems that can last long after the baby leaves the hospital. There are the well-established risks, of course: people who were born prematurely are more likely to be disabled, experience learning difficulties, or even have mental health problems. But these issues, in turn, lead to less obvious problems; for example, being born prematurely is also linked to making less money as an adult.
Now a new review of 21 different studies suggests additional issues: Being born prematurely can affect your love life, specifically your partner and sexual relationships. The analysis, which looked at research involving up to 4.4 million participants, found that adults who were born preterm or with low birth weight were less likely to find love, become parents, or even have sex than their peers who were not born prematurely. And the earlier you were born, the less likely a relationship is—subjects with the earliest premature births saw an even bigger gap when compared to their full-term peers.
Who's at risk?
This new research underscores the extent to which the earliest stages of a person’s life can shape everything which comes afterward. Researchers do not yet completely know why people are born prematurely, but we know that African- Americans and women with multiples (twins, triplets, etc), certain medical problems, a prior history of having had a premature birth before, and those who are obese, are more likely to deliver earlier. Now, this new study also shows that people born prematurely have more problems with romantic relationships, though previous studies suggest that it’s due to a combination of biological and environmental factors. Hopefully, future research will shed more light on these factors and identify the best ways to support these children in their social development.
There is some good news: preterm birth or low birth weight doesn’t seem to affect the quality of relationships with friends or romantic partners. In other words, people who were born prematurely might be less likely to form relationships—but the ones they form are just as strong as anybody else’s. If you are pregnant, you should know how to recognize possible early signs of labor and complications so you can let your doctor know right away.