Late-Term Babies Are Top of the Class: Study

Baby’s not budging? It could be worth the wait.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
Jun 2016
smart little girl smiling in empty classroom
Photo: Getty Images

You probably aren’t thrilled at the thought of your pregnancy going beyond full-term, but a study is highlighting some big benefits for babies who remain in utero a little longer. Babies born at 41 weeks, the designated mark for a late-term pregnancy, demonstrate better cognitive functioning in school later in life.

A team of researchers at Northwestern University analyzed over 1.4 million Florida birth certificates paired with state public school records, comparing academic achievements of kids born full-term (39 to 40 weeks, 6 days) to kids born late-term (41 weeks). As a whole, late-term babies performed better across three tests of cognitive measures: elementary/middle school test scores, probability of being gifted (2.8 percent higher) and reduced probability of poor cognitive outcomes (3.1 percent lower).

However, that boost in brain power is paired with possible physical limitations. Late-term infants had higher rates of birth complications, and a 2.1 percent higher rate of physical disabilities by school age.

“These findings suggest there may be a tradeoff between physical and cognitive outcomes associated with late-term gestation,” the study authors write in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “While this article does not constitute a course of action for clinicians, our findings provide useful long-term information…for expectant parents and physicians who are considering whether to induce delivery at full term or wait another week until late term.”

In other words, researchers understand that the date of baby’s delivery is largely out of your hands. But it’s something women who are deciding to have non-emergency c-sections or elective inductions can consider.

This isn’t the first study to determine that longer gestation has its benefits. Similar research from 2012 looked at New York City birth data and school records, determining that babies born at 39, 40 or 41 weeks had better reading and math test scores by third grade than their peers born at 37 or 38 weeks.
If you have a preemie on your hands, or have been told you may deliver early, no need to worry. Breast milk, whether from a birth mother or a donor, has been proven to give premature babies’ brains a major boost. Additionally, exposure to mom’s voice and heartbeat aids in premature brain development too.

Happy Chinese New Year! Predictions for Year of the Monkey Babies

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
02/08/2016

Late-Term Babies Are Top of the Class: Study

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
06/08/2016

Moms Swear This Restaurant's Specialty Pizza Helps Induce Labor

Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
04/16/2019

Pizza Hut Is Giving Free Pizza to One Set of Parents This Super Bowl

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
01/29/2020

Pizza Hut Is Giving Free Pizza to One Set of Parents This Super Bowl

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
01/29/2020

Feeling Romantic? Statistics Show Valentine's Day Leads to a Baby Boom

Sarah Hooper
Associate Social Editor
Published
02/14/2018

Q&A: When's My Due Date?

Denise Gershwin, CNM
Midwife Specialist