Are late-term babies born smarter?


Adding to the great induction debate

A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests the length of your pregnancy may have an impact on baby’s brain. The research, led by Dr. David Figlio at Northwestern University, studied more than 1.5 million children in Florida.

The three-year study involved single birth children born between 37 and 41 weeks gestation between 1998 and 2013. Eighty percent of the participants attended public school.

The details

Researchers looked to three measures of cognitive ability:

  • State testing in math and reading
  • Whether a child was labeled as gifted
  • Whether a child scored in the fifth percentile of test takers


To measure physical ability, the team considered two benchmarks:

  • Health issues at birth
  • Physical disabilities during school-age years

Read more: Weekend births pose greater risk to mom, baby 

The outcomes

Dr. Figlio and his research team divided children into two groups: Full term (born at 39 or 40 weeks) and late term (born at 41 weeks). Comparing the cognitive results of the two groups, the study concluded that late-term babies had higher cognitive scores at school age than their full term counterparts.

The catch

While late-term babies showed higher test scores, the study also suggested this group was more susceptible to physical disabilities and newborn complications. But before you work yourself into a panic over your late-term baby’s health, know this: The increased risk of physical disability was marginal, noted as 2.1 percent.

So, what?

The authors of the study were quick to say that they’re offering no course of action when it comes to inducing labor. Certainly, labor induction has its merits, especially for women with high-risk pregnancies. However, this research may be instrumental in helping expectant parents and their health care providers make the right decision on whether to wait it out or hook up the Pitocin.

Now, it’s your turn: What do you think of this study? Will it influence your decision to induce labor? Share your thoughts with other moms-to-be in the comment section below! 

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