(HealthDay News) – Children born at term but at 37 or 38 weeks of gestation have poorer achievement scores in reading and math in third grade, according to a study published online July 2 in Pediatrics.

Kimberly G Noble, MD, PhD, of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues used data from 128,050 infants born between 37 and 41 weeks of gestation to determine whether gestational age at birth impacts school achievement in third grade, particularly in reading or math ability.

The researchers found that, even within the normal range of term births, gestational age significantly affected reading and math scores in third grade, with significantly lower achievement scores for children who were born at either 37 or 38 weeks of gestation, compared with those who were born at 39, 40, or 41 weeks of gestation. The effect of gestational age on school achievement was independent of birth weight and other socioeconomic or obstetric factors.

“Increased gestational age at birth has a positive association with third-grade reading and math scores among children born in the 37- to 41-week range, commonly defined as term gestation,” the authors write. “From a public health perspective, this may have important consequences, particularly in the realm of identifying children who may be at risk for poorer school achievement.”

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