Dr. Mary Schooling, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and colleagues examined the relationship between preterm birth and duration of puberty among girls in Hong Kong. The findings were published in the American Journal of Human Biology.
[Photo: Dr. Mary Schooling]
The research team used data from the population-representative Chinese birth cohort “Children of 1997”. They used multivariable linear regression to assess the association of preterm status (≤36 completed gestational weeks, n = 170; term birth 37-42 gestational weeks, n = 3476) with duration of puberty, adjusted for parent’s highest education, mother’s place of birth, maternal smoking during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and mother’s age of menarche.
The mean duration from thelarche (the onset of breast development, usually occurring at the beginning of puberty in girls) to menarche was 2.53 years. Preterm girls had a shorter duration from thelarche to menarche by 2.6 months. Age of menarche did not differ by preterm status but preterm girls had later thelarche. Preterm birth was not associated with a shorter duration from pubarche to menarche.
The research team concluded that preterm births may be associated with shorter duration of puberty from thelarche to menarche, possibly through effects of in utero estrogen exposure, the drivers of thelarche, or the drivers of pubertal duration/progression, with potential implications for subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease and hormonal cancers.