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Study: Longer Gestation Periods Equal Better Test Scores

Children that stay in the womb until late into the full-term of pregnancy tend to test better on reading and math exams, a new study finds.

Baby

Photo: Tobein Ronning (Flickr)

Educational performance can be determined in part by how long a baby remains in its mother's womb, a study says.

Babies who stay in their mother’s womb the full nine months of pregnancy perform better in school than those born earlier, according to a recent study from Columbia University.

Researchers wanted to find out whether carrying a pregnancy not just to full-term but longer into the full-term period made a difference in how kids performed in school. Their results say it does.

Children who were born between 39 and 41 weeks–the range doctors call late full-term gestation–did slightly better on third grade math and reading exams than students who were born between 37 and 38 weeks, or early full-term.

Because of studies like this one, many obstetricians encourage women not to induce labor and to instead wait for labor to begin naturally. Lisa Weiler, an obstetrician with IU Health says those recommendations don’t apply to all moms.

“Now this doesn’t apply or we don’t know that it applies to inductions done for a medical indication—a mother who’s sick with preeclampsia, a child who’s having growth restrictions in the uterus, so we have to be careful that we don’t apply this one study to all inductions,” she says. “It really just speaks to elective inductions.”

Weiler says because there’s still a lot to learn about how babies develop in those last weeks of pregnancy, it is important to warn moms about inducing too early. But Weiler says moms shouldn’t be worried about their child’s development as long as they take recommended precautions to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Julie Rawe

Julie is Assistant Producer of Noon Edition. In addition to reporting for WFIU, she also works as an intern for NPR's State of the Re:Union. She is a graduate of Indiana University where she studied French, anthropology, and African studies.

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