Premature Infants: Girls Thrive More Than Boys | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Loyola study shows premature girls thrive more than preemie boys

Findings also help predict when preemies will go home from hospital

MAYWOOD, Ill. (April 29, 2015) – A new study from Loyola University Medical Center provides further evidence that infant girls tend to do better than infant boys when born prematurely.

The study found that infant girls were able to feed by mouth on their own one day earlier than infant boys. The ability to suck, swallow and breathe simultaneously are reflexes that many premature infants are unable to do.

Learning to master these skills and eat independently without feeding tubes is necessary before an infant can safely go home from the hospital.

Researchers set out to determine the mean age when premature infants are able to eat from a bottle or the breast and what effect gender, gestational age, delivery route or birth year played in these statistics.

They conducted a retrospective review of 2,700 preterm infants born before 37 weeks of pregnancy who were admitted to a Level III neonatal intensive care unit between 1978 to 2013. They found that premature infants were able to feed by mouth at 36 weeks and four days on average. In addition to their gender findings, researchers revealed that being born before 29 weeks of pregnancy negatively influenced the infants’ ability to eat independently (37 weeks and three days versus 36 weeks and one day for babies born between 29 to 33 weeks of pregnancy and 36 weeks and three days for babies born late preterm between 34 to 36 weeks, six days of pregnancy). Preterm infants born with severe complications also experienced a delay in independent oral feeding.

Babies born vaginally transitioned to independent oral feeding three days earlier than babies born via C-section. In addition, preterm infants born before 2000 achieved independent oral feeding two days later than babies born more recently. These findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.

Since 1981, the preterm birth rate in the United States has increased by more than 33 percent, and in 2012, 11.5 percent of all births were preterm (<37 weeks of pregnancy), with 29 percent of preterm births occurring before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Many advances in medical care have led to improved survival of extremely preterm infants. However, despite increased survival, those born at less than 28 weeks continue to have a high incidence of medical complications. The average length of stay in the NICU has risen due to the increasing survival of extremely preterm infants.

This study confirms that the majority of preterm newborns can be safely discharged three to four weeks before their due date. A this time, newborns are mature enough to maintain their temperature, consistently gain weight and coordinate sucking, swallowing, eating and breathing without gagging or choking.

“This study gives us insight into the factors that influence when an infant is likely to eat independently without complications,” said Jonathan Muraskas, MD, senior author, and co-medical director, neonatal intensive care unit, Loyola University Health System, and professor, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “This information will allow parents and the healthcare team to better plan for when the infant will go home from the hospital."

Other study authors included Sarah Van Nostrand, DO; Larry Bennett, MD; medical student Victoria Coraglio; and biostatistician Rong Guo, all from Loyola University Health System.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.