Friday, April 23, 2010

Mental disorders among extreme premees

A study of 219 extreme premees (<26 weeks) in the UK showed about a quarter of them had a psychiatric disorder at 11 years of age: 12% had ADHD, 9% emotional disorders, and 8% autism spectrum.

I have a hard time with our ability to have kids survive earlier and earlier births. Kids born before their lungs and brains and hearts have developed to normal birth standards end up screwed up in lots of ways. Sometimes I think kids born so young should be treated like hospice patients; if they can live without intubation, they live. Otherwise, let the parents start over.

I know that's not really an option; you can't just tell parents that any kid born before XX weeks doesn't deserve to live, but it also seems to me much like finding out that your fetus has Down syndrome. You never know for sure, but if I were pregnant with a Down syndrome kid, I think I would abort it. What would I do if I knew or thought my kid would have cystic fibrosis, a defective heart valve, an 80 IQ, and a personality disorder? I don't know. What would I recommend others do? I would not recommend anything. That's way above my pay grade.


  1. A member of our family (now 60) was born 40 days prematurely -- not even considered serious now...and those 40 days of "final polishing" on the nuances of brain development that never happened...have resulted in what might be diagnosed today as Asperger's or a few degrees of autism, or...? Her brain scan, taken a few years ago by a shrink, showed amazing variations from normal. And very little of it, according to the shrink, could be attributed to her 40 years of self-medication (drugs, alcohol).

    The least we need to be aware of is that premature births, even one month premature, need extra testing, observation, and analysis to diagnose possible learning disabilities or other problems of interrupted development before they destroy a life.

  2. Yup. Early screening and intervention can make lives better. And the brain is god-awful complicated and easy to screw up.