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Boys more likely to be born early

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 11:09 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Boys are slightly more likely to be born premature than girls, and they tend to fare worse, too, says a new report on the health of the world’s newborns.

“This is a double whammy for boys,” said Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “It’s a pattern that happens all over the world.”

The gender difference isn’t large: About 55 percent of preterm births in 2010 were male, the report found. Nor is it clear exactly why it happens.

The finding comes from a series of international studies being published Friday that examine newborn health and prematurity. About 15 million babies worldwide are born too soon, most of them in Africa and parts of Asia where survival is difficult for fragile newborns. Globally, about 1 million babies die as a direct result of preterm birth and another million die of conditions for which prematurity is an added risk, the researchers calculated.

Moreover, the risk of impairment in middle-income countries is double that of wealthy countries like the U.S.

Middle-income countries are missing out on a lesson the U.S. learned the hard way several decades ago, that giving these tiny babies too much oxygen can trigger a potentially blinding condition called retinopathy of prematurity.

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