Objective Previous studies showed that early preterms (gestational age [GA] <32 weeks) have an increased risk for growth retardation. Information on growth of late preterms (GA 32–<36 weeks) is scarce. Our aim was to investigate catch-down and catch-up growth following birth until 2 y of age in late preterms.
Methods We performed a community based cohort study on children born in 2002 and 2003, aged 3 years and 9 months at entry (n = 2460, of whom 1150 late preterms; response 80%). We retrospectively extracted data on growth since birth from files of Preventive Child Healthcare Services throughout the Netherlands. In addition, growth data were extracted from hospital charts and national perinatal registration files.
Results Late preterms had significant catch-down growth (mean −1,5 SD-score for body height and −1 SD-score for body weight) from birth until discharge several weeks later. After term, till 2 years, catch-up growth was on average +0,5 SD-score for height and +0,25 SD-score for weight. However, 15% of late preterms remained below −2SD (P2) for height at the age of 2 y.
Conclusion Late preterm children have catch-down growth following birth and catch-up growth following discharge. Up to 2 y of age, catch-up growth is insufficient in approximately one sixth of the late preterm children. Our data indicate that close surveillance of growth is required in late preterm infants during the first years of life.