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THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that seems to turn conventional wisdom on its head, researchers report that babies of teenage fathers are more likely to be born with health problems than babies born to men over 40.
"We found that being a teenage father was associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weight and neonatal deaths," said Dr. Shi Wu Wen, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa Department of Epidemiology & Community Medicine.
In the study, Wen's team used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to collect information on 2,614,966 births in the United States between 1995 and 2000. To isolate the effects of the teen fathers' age on the outcome of pregnancy, the researchers compensated for the mother's contribution by choosing women 20 to 29 years old.
Women in this age group are less likely to be affected by fertility problems, which can have an effect on birth outcomes, Wen noted. "We also excluded infants with birth defects," he said. "This may explain why we didn't see adverse effects amongst older fathers."
The researchers found that babies born to teenage fathers had a 15 percent increased risk of premature birth, a 13 percent increased risk for low birth weight, and a 17 percent increased risk for being small for gestational age.
These babies also had a 22 percent increased risk of dying within the first month after birth, and a 41 percent increased risk of dying in the first four weeks to one year after birth, although the absolute risk was small -- less than 0.5 percent, the researchers said.
Babies of fathers 40 and older did not experience the same risks, Wen said.
"The public has paid attention to teenage pregnancy, but mostly to teenage mothers," Wen said. "But here we show that teenage fathers are also at high
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