Monday, May 19, 2008

Premature Birth and Autoimmune Diseases

I was born severely premature (almost 3 months early).

And I’m wondering if anyone knows if there is any connection between premature birth and subsequent diagnosis of autoimmune diseases.

I know I’ve suggested before that I refuse to look back on earlier parts of my life and question them.

However, until this point in my life, I’ve been relatively lucky health wise for a severely premature baby born in 1985.

So I find myself having to wonder if there is any correlation between my premature birth and my recent diagnosis with multiple connective tissue/autoimmune diseases.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with information about this, but as I’ve suggested before, I’m trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together and make some sense out of all this for myself.


  1. I was just researching this topic and found your blog. I am currently on the Marshall Protocol due to an "autoimmune" disease. The theory behind the MP is that bacterial load--from pre-birth, including from both parents but primarily the mother, to what you accumulate in your life time--determine what chronic illness you will develop. And by bacterial load what is of most concern is cell wall deficient bacteria, which hide in the macrophages and hijack the immune system.

    At any rate, recent research indicates that the amniotic fluid of pregnant mothers of premies has a higher bacterial load. Two friends of mine growing up ended up having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and one died of cancer (people with CFS have higher than normal cancer rates); I also have CFS. All three of us were the first children conceived by our mothers not long after they received a series of vaccines to be able to come to the U.S. as WWII brides. Vaccines are likely carriers of all sorts of bacteria and when they became pregnant, their immune systems had probably not had the opportunity to kill off all the invaders.

    I was a premie, and I have the tiny finger nails and toe nails to prove it. I never asked it of my friend who died of cancer, but I remember her nails being small too. As for the other friend, I will have to wait until I am well enough to see her to check that out.

    From there, we grew up together, and so we shared a lot of the same exposures. I take that to be the reason we ended up with the same immune disease.

    So I've been trying to find out if there are any long term studies showing a correlation b/w premies and autoimmune diseases. The studies I've seen so far follow babies into their teen years mainly. I'm still looking... have a lot of brain fog and so I'm not very good at researching on the Net.

    Best to you.

  2. I did find this study:

    "However in a sub-analysis, a larger proportion of extremely low birth weight participants, 26%, were not employed due to chronic illness or permanent disability compared to normal birth weight subjects (15%)."

    That's nearly twice the risk.

  3. I was born in 1957, 2 months premature,I weighed 4lbs. something and went down to 3lbs. something. I have had terrible allergies my whole life and developed RA when I was 40. I have always wondered about a connection considering they are both an over reaction of your immune system. There is only 1 other person in my family that has RA and he also was a premie and had serious health issues at birth. I think there are many studies under way to sort these questions out. I am treated monthly with an infusion of Actemra that is a huge benefit to me,but also has undesirable potentially serious side effects. Medicine is about to change forever with the new stem cell treatments being studied and in many countries being used for an unlimited number of illnesses with wonderful success. I hope there will be treatments more easily available to persons with autoimmune diseases here in the US. You can get treated here for RA with adipose ( stem cells from your own fat) but last I checked it would cost over 12 thousand dollars a treatment and sometimes it takes more than 1. I feel hope is on the horizon, but I wish they would hurry up.

  4. Wow, your story seriously is so close to mine. I also was 3 months early (just about), and have wondered if it was linked to autoimmune issues. thanks for sharing!


  5. Hi there,
    I work as a research assistant in a group who studies preterm birth genetics. I was searching online for some information when I came across your blog. I thought you would also be interested in the below article.
    If you cannot gain access to a full copy of the article, I may email you a copy.

    Front Neurosci. 2013 May 21;7:79. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00079. eCollection 2013.
    The immune consequences of preterm birth.
    Melville JM, Moss TJ.

    The Ritchie Centre, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University Clayton, VIC, Australia.

    Preterm birth occurs in 11% of live births globally and accounts for 35% of all newborn deaths. Preterm newborns have immature immune systems, with reduced innate and adaptive immunity; their immune systems may be further compromised by various factors associated with preterm birth. The immune systems of preterm infants have a smaller pool of monocytes and neutrophils, impaired ability of these cells to kill pathogens, and lower production of cytokines which limits T cell activation and reduces the ability to fight bacteria and detect viruses in cells, compared to term infants. Intrauterine inflammation is a major contributor to preterm birth, and causes premature immune activation and cytokine production. This can induce immune tolerance leading to reduced newborn immune function. Intrauterine inflammation is associated with an increased risk of early-onset sepsis and likely has long-term adverse immune consequences. Requisite medical interventions further impact on immune development and function. Antenatal corticosteroid treatment to prevent newborn respiratory disease is routine but may be immunosuppressive, and has been associated with febrile responses, reductions in lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine production, and increased risk of infection. Invasive medical procedures result in an increased risk of late-onset sepsis. Respiratory support can cause chronic inflammatory lung disease associated with increased risk of long-term morbidity. Colonization of the infant by microorganisms at birth is a significant contributor to the establishment of the microbiome. Caesarean section affects infant colonization, potentially contributing to lifelong immune function and well-being. Several factors associated with preterm birth alter immune function. A better understanding of perinatal modification of the preterm immune system will allow for the refinement of care to minimize lifelong adverse immune consequences.

  6. Funny, like some folks here, I decided to Google premature birth and autoimmune stuff. I was born in Sept 1965 and due in Feb 1966. 1-1/2 lbs at birth. In my 48 years never had serious health issues pop up until Jan 2014. Rash & stuff couple weeks ago. Currently, seeing Dr and possibly a Derm Dr down the road. So, is it a coincidence? Know nothing about parents medical history, so that doesn't help me.

  7. hi! i also was born 3 months early weight 1lb and yes i also have autoimmune diseases. i have RA and fibro and Gerd. I think there is totally a connection

  8. I've been questioning the link between the two myself. My daughter was born 15 weeks early and at 12 years old developed type 1 diabetes and Hosimotos which are both auto immune syndromes and we have no family history of either disease. She has been very healthy otherwise.

  9. Strange...My 23 yr old daughter was born very premature---15 weeks early, 1 lb 6 oz. She went to Dr. last week and back this morning for her lab results. Is to see Hematologist next week---Leaning toward an auto-immune problem. Not our first go around. Went through similar symptoms 6 years ago. Something within me led me to look up premature birth and autoimmune diseases. Here I am. Gotta be something to it---but I have found in the past that Drs. do not pay much attention to the premature birth and problems she may be having.

  10. Hi my name is Lindsey, I was born in 1989 at 25 weeks gestation or 3 months early as well!!! I weighed 1lb 8oz. I was recently diagnosed with RA, Lupus, sjogrens and raynauds. I hope to find any connection! Thank you for posting your blog!!!

  11. Same story here. I was born three months early on April 15, 1971 (due date was July 4th). I've had horrible allergies and asthma my whole life. Diagnosed with a severe gluten sensitivity in 2012, which they are now saying was caused by Dysautonomia, a breakddown of the central nervous system. I also have Raynaud's. Both of my kids have Dysautonomia and eczema, and my son also has MANY serious food allergies. My daughter also has mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) and has been homebound for the last 4 months. My mom has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I'm sure that these are all related somehow. I keep searching for answers to this question and haven't been able to find much. One thing that doctors have confirmed is that my allergies, immune issues, etc. are most likely related to the fact that I was born via c-section and was kept in a sterile incubabor for the first few months. My understanding is that infants' immune systems become stronger if they are exposed to bacteria in the birth canal and in the environment early on. - Lisa

  12. I can't believe how many of us are experiencing the same type of illness, and what the correlation might be to being a preemie. I was born 3 months early, just a little under 2 pounds. I've always struggled with low immune function as well as asthma. Diagnosed with Hashimotos after my son was born, and now am struggling with pituitary function.

  13. interesting....23 years old, was born 2 months premature and weighed around 4 lbs. i was just diagnosed with MCTD and have had awful allergies my whole life as well as chronic GI issues (undiagnosed) since childhood. there has to be some sort of connection

  14. I've contemplated this issue myself, at a 2-month early premie with multiple autoimmune issues, and I keep coming back to the idea that correlation doesn't equal causation. Perhaps there is something about being born premature that predisposes us to autoimmune health risks. However, perhaps our mothers' bodies were trying to spontaneously abort us because we carried innate genetic defects which predisposed us to autoimmune issues. Survival of the fittest and all that.

  15. Hello,
    I was born a little over 6 weeks premature. I have suffered with an autoimmune disease my whole life I wouldn't have a bowel movement for weeks on end and when i finally did they would be the size of pebbles. It wasn't until I was 19 when I under went a colonoscopy to discover from my doctor that premature babies are at a much higher risk for developing immune disease because the last things to develop in a child is not only the lungs (which is believed to be the last thing to develop) but also the babies intestines. We as humans get our overall health from our GI tracts. So when that isn't fully developed you are more likely than not to develop or have autoimmune issues and diseases. Hope this helps. I've done a lot of research on this as I struggle on a daily basis with bacterial infections and fatigue as well as severe digestion issues. Many of these issues effect my daily life, down to my sex life. I am now 26 years old in case you were wondering.

  16. Hi, I was 3 months premature in 1957, 2 lbs, and have always been healrhy and happy. Im now 58 and have never had any serious health issues except something undiagnosed but now resolved, tingling/numbness in extremities, some drs thought Lyme/cf. Anyway now resolved. I keep my thoughts on what I want to experience, health and happiness! Although we can't remember our experiences when we were first born, I believe we were blessed and taken care of by wonderful nurses and doctors. All the best to all of you

  17. I was three months premature, my sister was two. We both have auto immune diseases. She has chrones and it looks like I may have RA, still waiting on a firm diagnosis.

  18. Wow....I was born almost three months premature weighed under 3 pounds. I have asthma, seborrheic dermatits, raynauds..I think we are showing some connections

  19. I was born 8-10 weeks early in 1990. I had a slew of problems upon being born. Everything from respiratory issues to sepsis. I required 16 blood/plasma transfusions before 2months of age.I've had issues with a variety of illnesses my entire life from chronic sinus and strep throat infections, to osteomyelitis, to an "unknown" illness that reoccurs every few years. I've had EBV as well. I've been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Raynauds, and GI issues that we're still trying to pin down (celiac,etc). That's just an abbreviated run down of my crazy health history.

    I ended up on this site, like many of you, trying to find some connections between premature birth and autoimmune diseases.

  20. I was born in 1957 two months preemie. 4lbs. I am 58 now and having numerous issues. Likely RA. Seborrhea derm.of scalp and fibromyalgia. Born with bad knees. Would really appreciate hearing from similar people. Blessings. Michele