There’s been a rash of studies on the numerous health consequences of pre-term deliveries. Here’s a study showing that babies born before 37 weeks had significantly higher rates of developing asthma. The more preterm, the higher the risk. Since it was a large-scale epidemiological study combining 42 similar studies, with over 1.5 million total births, it didn’t go too much into possible mechanisms.
Underdevelopment of the lungs is a common potential explanation, but here’s another possible mechanism: Preterm delivery can raise your risk for obstructive sleep apnea. This study found that very premature delivery and maternal smoking raised the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea by 2.2 time normal.
We know that obstructive sleep apnea can predispose your stomach juices to come up into the throat, mainly due to vacuum forces in the throat. If you accept the possibility that stomach juices can reach the throat, then it can easily reach the lungs or even the ears. Here’s one study showing that children with chronic lung diseases had much higher rates of pepsin (a stomach enzyme) in lung washings.
There’s a reason why 40 weeks is needed for full-term delivery. Not having enough time to fully develop the airway and jaw structures can lead to narrowed upper airways which can predispose to obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, reflux, and a variety of other future health problems.
If your child was delivered pre-term, does he or she have asthma?