A new study shows that for babies who are born full-term and keep growing until they are ready to be born there are huge advantages. They are also, for the most part, healthier at birth, and they do better in school than their lighter weight peers.
Researchers found that six-pound babies do better than five-pound babies, seven-pound babies do better than six-pound babies, and so forth up to ten pounds.
Since 1990, the number of births in the US which have been induced by drugs or surgery has doubled. There has been a notion that once a fetus passes certain milestones, like 39 weeks of gestation and five and a half pounds of weight, that child is as healthy as he or she can be. Also, for some parents and doctors as well, scheduling a birth is more convenient, according to David Leonhardt and Amanda Cox of The New York Times.
In 2011, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), along with other groups, began the campaign to stop induced labor before the 39th week. Now they are looking at whether 40 weeks is too early for induction. Elective inductions should take place only "after a woman's water has broken or after a medical problem".
But now, the study of every child born in Florida in an 11 year period has changed some of the most common assumptions about childbirth. The data also suggests what many experts have believed, that Americans would be healthier if our health care system were, at times, less aggressive.
Many fetuses could benefit by staying in the womb for a longer time where they can add up to a quarter-pound each week. Naturally weight is just one indicator of a newborn's health, but it seems now that is a significant one.
"Birth weight matters, and it matters for everyone," says David N. Figlio, a Northwestern University professor and co-author of the study, which will soon be published in the American Economic Review, one of the field's top journals.
The study estimates that a 10-pound baby is going to score an average of 80 points higher on the 1,600-point SAT than a six-pound baby. Another pattern observed was that among the top 5% of test scorers in elementary school, one in three weighed at least eight pounds at birth compared with one in four of all babies, reports Terri LaPoint of the Inquisitr.
Sarah Eaberspacher of The Week, says:
"While the new data may suggest that it's time for health care professionals to revisit commonly held beliefs about pregnancy, Figlio was quick to point out that factors besides birth weight still matter when it comes to a baby's destiny. The study's author himself was only 5 pounds, 15 ounces at birth, after all."
Other factors were the health and sex of the baby, and the length of pregnancy, health, age, race, and education of the mother. The effect on twins was the similar to the effect on single babies.
Figlio's study used information to compare birth weight with test scores from third through eighth grades along with kindergarten readiness scores. The relationship between birth weight and test scores was evident when children entered kindergarten and was fairly consistent through elementary and middle school. Other research shows that found that children who do better in elementary school are more likely to graduate from college, earn more in their adulthood, and live longer.
Going too far to the other side of the spectrum can bring health risks such as a risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and the possibility of neurological difficulties writes Anthony Rivas, writing for Medical Daily.