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Study suggests mechanism for recurrent sudden infant death syndrome

Lancet

Women who have a baby that dies of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have an increased risk of preterm delivery and complications in subsequent pregnancies, concludes an article in this week's issue of The Lancet. As these complications are risk factors for SIDS this could explain why some women have recurrent SIDS in their family, state the authors.

SIDS is the most important single cause of infant mortality in the developed world. Gordon Smith (University of Cambridge, UK) and colleagues investigated whether women whose infants die from SIDS would be more likely to have complications in their future pregnancies. They looked at data on maternity-hospital discharge and infant deaths for over 258,000 women who had consecutive births in Scotland between 1995 and 2001.

The researchers found that women whose previous infant died were two to three times more likely to deliver an infant who was small for their gestational age, and two to three times more likely to have a preterm delivery. Women who had babies which were small for their age or delivered preterm had a two-fold increased risk of SIDS occurring in their subsequent births. The investigators found that the association persisted even after they took into account other possible risk factors for SIDS, such as smoking status, maternal age, and marital status.

Professor Smith states: "Our findings suggest a mechanism that would predispose a women to recurrent cases of SIDS and provide direct evidence that the risk of SIDS after a given birth is not statistically independent of whether the previous infants died."

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Contact: Professor Gordon C S Smith, Head of Department, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Cambridge University, Box 223 The Rosie Hospital, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2SW, UK. T) 07966474835 / 01223763888 gcss2@cam.ac.uk

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