The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-017-0976-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
An estimated 11% of births occur preterm, and survival is improving. Early studies suggested an association between preterm birth and earlier puberty. Given the adverse outcomes associated with early puberty this could have significant public health implications.
The objective of this review was to assess the timing of puberty after preterm birth.
Pubmed, Embase, Popline, Global Health and Global Health Library were searched using terms relating to “premature birth”, “menarche”, “puberty” and “follow up studies”. Inclusion criteria were a population consisting of pubertal or post-pubertal adolescents and adults; studies which defined preterm delivery in participants and compared outcomes to those after term delivery; and a quantitative assessment of pubertal onset. Assessment of risk of bias was conducted using principles from the Critical Appraisal Study Process.
Our search identified 1051 studies, of which 16 met the inclusion criteria. In females, 8 studies found no association between preterm birth and the timing of menarche. Five studies found earlier onset in preterm infants, 1 found later onset, and 1 showed both earlier and later menarche, depending on birth weight. The range of effect of studies showing earlier menarche was - 0.94 to −0.07 years in the preterm group, with a median of - 0.3 years. In males, 2 studies showed earlier onset of puberty in the preterm group, 5 showed no difference, and 1 showed later onset. Most studies did not present outcomes in the form of a mean with standard deviation, precluding a meta-analysis. There was insufficient data to address potential confounding factors.
The published evidence does not suggest that being born preterm leads to a significant acceleration in the onset of puberty. This should prove reassuring for public health purposes, and for clinicians counseling parents of infants born preterm.
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- Preterm birth and the timing of puberty: a systematic review
Claire L. Wood
Thomas C. Williams
- BioMed Central