Young pregnant girls, ages 10 to 15, are more likely to face an increased risk of complications, including preeclampsia and caesarean section, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas also found that these young patients are more likely to have problems during pregnancy, which are exacerbated by obesity, writes Health Day .
“This study highlights the unique perinatal characteristics of a population that is rarely studied, namely adolescents aged 10 to 15 years,” says author, Dr. Ann Ambia, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Knowing the characteristics and outcomes of these patients shows that we have opportunities to intervene to prevent pregnancy and make a real difference to their well-being.”
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Ambia, her co-author Dr. David Nelson, Chief of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, and colleagues reviewed the medical records of patients under the age of 35 who gave birth for the first time between January 2010 and May 2021 at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The public hospital is considered a safety net that serves patients in Dallas.
Of the more than 33,000 patients they found, 868 were aged 15 or younger while pregnant. The researchers found stark differences when comparing this group with adults.
Their pregnancies dragged on when they started receiving prenatal care. While adults sought medical help closer to 16 weeks, young parents under 19 by 17 weeks, and the youngest group waited until almost 20 weeks of pregnancy. They also made significantly fewer visits to antenatal care providers.
Young patients were more likely to develop eclampsia, a dangerous condition in which high blood pressure leads to seizures during or shortly after pregnancy. They were also more likely to give birth before 37 weeks of gestation. Their babies were more likely to have low birth weight and be admitted to neonatal intensive care units.
Mothers in each of the three groups were overweight or obese, as evidenced by body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight.