Why children born prematurely may have worse grades in school


Preterm birth, before 34 weeks’ gestation, is linked to lower math and language scores in teens, study finds

It is estimated that around 15 million babies are born prematurely in the world each year, before the 37th week of pregnancy. The last weeks of pregnancy are important for fetal brain development, which is why preterm birth is thought to have a negative impact on subsequent brain function and performance.

Preterm birth, before the 34th week of pregnancy, is linked to lower math and language scores in teenagers than their peers who were born after 40 weeks of pregnancy, a large new Danish scientific study shows. on the other hand, the scientists emphasized that cognitive function is not predetermined at birth, but is strongly influenced by the family and the general social environment, therefore even children who were born prematurely, it is not a given that they will lag behind cognitively when they grow up and go to school.

The research

The researchers, led by Dr. Anders Husby of the Department of Epidemiology Research at the Satens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, who made the relevant publication in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), analyzed data on nearly 793,000 children, comparing their performance in school tests. examinations at the age of 15-16, with whether they were born prematurely or not. 5.6% of the children were born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

It was found that only those children who were born before 34 weeks had significantly lower than average performance in mathematics, while in written language tests this was mainly true for children who were born very prematurely, before 27 weeks.

The research found no significant differences in later brain (cognitive) function between children born between 34 and 39 weeks of gestation and those born at 40.

randomly intelligence (IQ) tests administered to military recruits also showed significantly lower “scores” for those born before 34 weeks. Those born at 33 or 34 weeks scored an average of 2.4 points lower on IQ tests, those born between 28 and 31 weeks lost 3.8 points, while those born at 27 weeks or earlier had 4 .2 IQ points less.

Reduced cognitive ability has been linked by previous research to poorer quality of life and early death. Cognitive deficits, according to scientists due to premature birth, can have a negative effect over time.

On the other hand, they pointed out that although parents and teachers should be aware of the possible educational and cognitive difficulties associated with preterm birth, the magnitude of these differences compared to other children is not always significant, especially for children who were not born too prematurely.

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