How does induction of labour affect educational achievement later in life?

Inducing labour early in uncomplicated pregnancies may reduce the risk of a baby dying but could also influence a 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.
  • Authors list

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

    Start date: 2019
    End date: 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

This project took place at our Edinburgh centre which operated between 2008 and 2021.

Why do we need this research?

The length of time a baby spends in the womb, known as gestation, affects 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 are finding out whether induction of labour might affect a child’s educational achievements later in life. To do this, the team in Edinburgh have gathered information on all term singleton births (babies born from 37 weeks gestation) in Scotland from 1988 to 2015, including data about the gestation at birth and whether labour was induced, as well as other factors including birthweight and characteristics of the mother. They have collected this information for over one million babies.

The information about each child’s birth has also been linked to data in their school records, such as whether they had any special educational needs and how they performed in exams. All data has been anonymised, so that no individual child or mother can be identified. So far, our researchers have found that around 1 in 5 of the children had a special educational need. The team will now compare the educational outcomes for those children who were born following induction of labour and those whose birth was spontaneous.

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 induction of labour influences educational achievement later in life. The results will add to what doctors already know about inducing labour in uncomplicated pregnancies and 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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