Week-early babies 'more prone to learning difficulties'

Babies born a week early are more prone to develop a series of learning difficulties such as autism and deafness, research suggested today.

The study of more than 400,000 British children showed that those born at 39 weeks were more likely to need help at school compared with babies who spent 40 weeks in the womb.

The results "suggest that deliveries should ideally wait until 40 weeks of gestation because even a baby born at 39 weeks...has an increased risk of Special Educational Needs (SEN) compared with a baby born a week later", the experts concluded.

Around a third of UK births take place at 37 to 39 weeks, a rate that has increased in recent years as more mothers choose earlier deliveries for non-medical reasons.

The British study, which was funded by the NHS, looked at the school and hospital records of nearly 408,000 schoolchildren across Scotland.

Nearly 18,000 of the children were classed as having an SEN - such as dyslexia or autism, or a physical difficulty such as deafness or poor vision.

A total of 8.4% of the children who were born pre-term were found to have a learning difficulty, compared with just 4.7% for those born at-term.

The study also found that compared to children born at 40 weeks, children born between 37 and 39 weeks were 1.16 times as likely to have an SEN.

This tendency increased the earlier the delivery, rising to 1.53 times for children born at 33 to 36 weeks, and 2.66 times for those born between 28 and 32 weeks.

Babies born between 24 and 27 weeks were found to be 6.92 times as likely to have potential learning difficulties.

"These findings, which are likely to be accurate because of the large size of the study and its design, have important implications for the timing of elective delivery," the study said.

Public health professor Jill Pell from Glasgow University told the Daily Mail the chances of any one baby being affected were very low.

But she added: "It is important from a public health point of view as so many infants are born pre-term.

"A third of deliveries take place at 37 to 39 weeks. Across the country, that is an awful lot of extra cases of special educational needs due to slightly early deliveries."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Projects Engineer

    £18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Director - OTE £60,000

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Inbound Sales Executive

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Inbound Sales Executive is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent