Researchers Say Premature Pregnancy Can Cause Low IQ in Newborns

Researchers Say Premature Pregnancy Can Cause Low IQ in Newborns

Deficits on the brain from being born prematurely can be offset by love, training and extra support.

Have you ever wondered if having a premature baby affects them in anyway? Premature babies tend to be born with a myriad of medical issues, though these will vary from baby to baby. It is known that the earlier your baby is born, the higher the risk of complications. But researchers have now found that premature birth could cause a low IQ in newborns.

Low IQ in newborns caused by premature births

Researchers claim that babies that born much too soon may not score as high on intelligence test during childhood. Their results were compared to full-term infants.

This conclusion is based on data from 71 previously published studies on thousands of babies. Here, intelligence quotient (IQ) tests completed between age 5 and age 20 showed that preemies (premature babies) typically lagged behind their full-term counterparts.

On average, preemies underperformed on the IQ tests by the equivalent of about 13 points. Each additional week of pregnancy missed was associated with a 1.26-point reduction in their IQ scores

“The progress in neonatal health care that has considerably increased the survival of preterm infants. But improvement in survival was not accompanied by improvement of cognitive outcomes,” says lead study author Sabrina Twilhaar. She is from the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam.

Low IQ in newborns

Low IQ in Newborns

The future for premature babies isn’t necessarily bleak. | Image Source: Pexels

Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. Babies born after 37 weeks are considered full term. Half of the preemies in this study were born before 28.5 weeks.

In the weeks immediately after birth, preemies often have difficulty breathing and digesting. They can also encounter longer-term challenges such as impaired vision, hearing and cognitive skills. Some may also have  social and behavioural problems. 

Do note that this study is not a controlled experiment designed to prove if a premature delivery directly causes low IQ. Researchers also lacked data on certain demographic factors that can lead to a low IQ. 

Nevertheless, parents of preemies should be aware of the potential for intellectual deficits.  Early interactions can help the baby’s brain to develop cognitive skills.

“Parents should also understand that IQ is an imperfect indicator of cognitive abilities. It does not tell how well children might succeed in school,” says Riikka Pyhala, a researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland”

“Behind a general IQ score, every child has their individual strengths and weaknesses.  This will be reflected in specific cognitive skills such as verbal or visual reasoning, memory and attention,” says Pyhala.

“Detailed knowledge on these abilities allows us to support their learning in an optimal way.” 

No matter if your baby is born premature or not. Not all hope is lost. You can help to nurture your baby’s brain development from a young age with these tips.

Nurturing a baby’s brain to avoid low IQ in newborns

4 Tips to nuture a newborn’s growing brain:

1. Chat with your baby

Talking to your baby will develop a vocabulary. Babies think in concrete terms so talk about his toys instead of your family vacation.

2. Read together

Reading builds an emotional bond. It also aids baby’s learning ability. Pictures also enable your child to see things like wild animals.

3. Use sign language for little babies before they learn to speak

Research has shown that sign language has a positive effect on a baby’s IQ and language development.

4. Give them some alone time

Doctors say downtime allows babies to learn how to amuse themselves. They also learn how to play with toys on their own. This develops their attention span.

Also read: A child’s drawing may predict their IQ and 1o ways to boost your child’s IQ

Source: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Elaine Boey

app info
get app banner