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Babies Born Too Early Likely to Face Educational and Lifelong Behavioral Setbacks

Kids raise their hands in a classroom.
Image credit: Getty Images)
Feb 16 2021
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

Babies who are born early are likely to face adverse neurocognitive and behavioral outcomes as they go from kindergarten through high school, according to new Stanford research.

A full-term birth is typically between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, but births between 32 and 36 weeks are considered moderate to late preterm births. And those seemingly short few weeks may result in serious education lags and lifelong behavioral impacts.

“Late preterm birth — previously considered unimportant beyond infancy — may be an important neurocognitive risk factor,” said Lee M. Sanders, a pediatrician, core faculty member at Stanford Health Policy and chief of the division of general pediatrics at Stanford Medicine. “So, this warrants special screening and intervention from medical providers, early childcare providers, early intervention programs — and schools.”

Findings from the study by Lee and his Stanford colleagues were recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics. They found that after adjusting for socioeconomic status and compared with full-term births, moderate and late preterm births are associated with increased risk of low performance in mathematics and English language arts, as well as chronic absenteeism and suspension from school.

Study co-arthor is Carrie Townley Flores, a 2017 SGF Fellow .

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