How does inducing labour early affect educational achievement later in life?

Inducing labour early in uncomplicated pregnancies may reduce the risk of a baby dying but could also influence the child’s educational achievement later in life. Our researchers are linking information about births to children’s school records. This will help doctors and parents make informed decisions about inducing labour early.
  • Author's list

    Dr Sarah Murray, Dr Sarah Stock, Professor Rebecca Reynolds, Professor Jane Norman

    Start date: April 2019
    End date: March 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

The length of time a baby spends in the womb, known as gestation, effects its health in both the short and long term. Research has shown that, in healthy pregnancies, inducing labour after 37 weeks reduces the chances of a baby dying during pregnancy or shortly after birth. However, we also know that gestation at delivery is closely linked to whether the child will have special educational needs later in life – the earlier a baby is delivered, the more likely they are to have special educational needs. 

Before we can recommend early induction of labour in healthy pregnancies, we need to learn more about the long-term health consequences of this approach, so that these can be balanced carefully with the short-term risks of continuing the pregnancy.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers funded by Tommy’s want to study how inducing labour early might affect a child’s educational achievements later in life. To do this, the team in Edinburgh are gathering information on all singleton births in Scotland from 1988 to 2014. They will collect data on the length of gestation and whether labour was induced, as well as other factors including birthweight and information about the mother.

The information for each child will then be linked to data in their school records, including any special educational needs they had, and some exam results. All data will be anonymised before it is analysed, so that no individual child or mother can be identified.

What difference will this project make?

By linking information about children’s births with their school records, the researchers will be able to find out whether inducing labour early influences educational achievement later in life. The results will add more information to what doctors already know about inducing labour in uncomplicated pregnancies. This will help them to ensure a good balance between the short- and long-term health and wellbeing of the babies in their care.

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