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Study: Early Birth Linked to Special Education Needs

A study released in the Public Library of Science (full text here) has linked gestational age of "early term" babies to the development of learning or physical disabilities.

Scientists have known for some time that premature babies—those born before 36 weeks gestation—face all sorts of physical and developmental disabilities. But this study of more than 400,000 Scottish school children focused on babies born between 37 and 39 weeks. (Full gestation is 40 weeks.)

Even a few weeks seemed to make a difference; babies born at 37 to 39 weeks were 1.16 times as likely to have a "special education need" as babies born at 40 weeks. Interestingly, this particular study showed that children who were born two and three weeks late also had an increased likelihood of having a special education need.

The study focused on early births because, while premature births are usually involuntary, many women may schedule a slightly early birth as a part of elective delivery. These researchers say women may want to rethink that decision.

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