Self-Reported Mental Health Problems Among Adults Born Preterm:  A Meta-Analysis

Riikka PyhäläElina WolfordHannu KautiainenSture AnderssonPeter BartmannNicole BaumannAnn-Mari BrubakkKari Anne I. EvensenPetteri HoviEero KajantieMarius LahtiRyan J. Van LieshoutSaroj SaigalLouis A. SchmidtMarit S. IndredavikDieter Wolke and Katri Räikkönen


Adults that were born premature have an increased risk of anxiety than if they were born at full term. The risk is greater the more premature the baby was. The brain develops very fast in the last weeks of pregnancy and preterm delivery may disrupt this and could increase the risk of long-term emotional problems. These problems could have a large impact on work performance and interaction with other adults. Anxiety can also have an effect on adults thinking where they perceive the fear or danger to be greater than it is. Thinking about the situation, makes them more worried and stressed. Adults themselves might be anxious about getting pregnant themselves as they fear they might have pregnancy complications and have a premature baby as well.

An adult with anxiety may:

  • Avoid situations they are scared about
  • Pulling out hair
  • Nail biting
  • Feeling worried overwhelmed and out of control
  • Afraid to take risks or try new things
  • Feeling angry
  • Has trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Always expecting the worst to happen
  • Have complaints of headache, stomach aches, racing heart and sweating


Dealing with anxiety starts with good self-care. The following are good activities to help you with this:

  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet and avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation and Yoga
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Listen to Music
  • Plant a garden
  • Write in a journal

Acknowledging your emotions and feelings is very important, also talking to someone about how you are feeling. This could be your partner, a friend or family member or a professional like a counsellor or psychologist.  Some people with anxiety may be referred by their doctor to a psychiatrist where they have both medical and therapy training and may find medication works for them as well.

Building resilient families is important so that families can deal with the stresses of life and the challenges they face and be able to move forward even stronger. Recognising that there is support outside the immediate family in extended family and members of the community in difficult times and also family members working together is the key to building resilient families.

Useful links:

“Whatever you fear most has no power. It is your fear that has the power”
Oprah Winfrey

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].