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Late preterm birth and growth trajectories during childhood: a linked retrospective cohort study


Background — Evidence suggests that accelerated postnatal growth in children is detrimental for adult cardiovascular health. It is unclear whether children born late preterm (34–36 weeks) compared to full term (≥ 39 weeks), have different growth trajectories. Our objective was to evaluate the association between gestational age groups and growth trajectories of children born between 2006–2014 and followed to 2021 in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study of children from singleton births in TARGet Kids! primary care network with repeated measures of weight and height/length from birth to 14 years, who were linked to health administrative databases. Piecewise linear mixed models were used to model weight (kg/month) and height (cm/month) trajectories with knots at 3, 12, and 84 months. Analyses were conducted based on chronological age.

Results — There were 4423 children included with a mean of 11 weight and height measures per child. The mean age at the last visit was 5.9 years (Standard Deviation: 3.1). Generally, the more preterm, the lower the mean value of weight and height until early adolescence. Differences in mean weight and height for very/moderate preterm and late preterm compared to full term were evident until 12 months of age. Weight trajectories were similar between children born late preterm and full term with small differences from 84–168 months (mean difference (MD) -0.04 kg/month, 95% CI -0.06, -0.03). Children born late preterm had faster height gain from 0–3 months (MD 0.70 cm/month, 95% CI 0.42, 0.97) and 3–12 months (MD 0.17 cm/month, 95% CI 0.11, 0.22).

Conclusions — Compared to full term, children born late preterm had lower average weight and height from birth to 14 years, had a slightly slower rate of weight gain after 84 months and a faster rate of height gain from 0–12 months. Follow-up is needed to determine if growth differences are associated with long-term disease risk.



Yoshida-Montezuma Y, Kirkwood D, Sivapathasundaram B, Keown-Stoneman CDG, de Souza RJ, To T, Borkhoff CM, Birken CS, Maguire JL, Brown HK, Anderson LN; TARGet Kids! Collaboration. BMC Pediatr. 2023; 23(1):450. Epub 2023 Sep 8.

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