A study of 128,000 New York City school children has found children born at full-term have improved brain development and achieve better academic test scores than those born even a few weeks earlier, reports nydailynews.com
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center compared children born at 37 weeks and 41 weeks and found a small but noticeable difference in reading and maths skills for those born later. Children born at 41 weeks scored on average one point higher than those born at 37 weeks.
Children born at 37 weeks were also a third more likely to have reading difficulties by third grade (Years 2 and 3) and a 19% greater chance of having problems with maths than those born at 41 weeks.
Pediatric expert Dr Judy Aschner at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said she didn’t want to panic women whose babies come naturally at 37 weeks but that the results should have implications for women who elect for early Caesareans.
“There are a lot of babies who are being delivered more or less electively at 37 and 38 weeks, with people thinking, “This is no big deal. These babies are full-term. I think this is a big deal”, she said.
The researchers said the results should raise questions about the medical definition of prematurity. At the moment, babies born at less than 37 weeks are considered premature.