To assess the relationship of moderate and late preterm birth (32 0/7-36 6/7 weeks) to long-term educational outcomes.
We hypothesized that moderate and late preterm birth would be associated with adverse outcomes in elementary school. To test this, we linked vital statistics patient discharge data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development including birth outcomes, to the 2015-2016 school year administrative data of a large, urban school district (n = 72 316). We compared the relative risk of moderate and late preterm and term infants for later adverse neurocognitive and behavioral outcomes in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
After adjusting for socioeconomic status, compared with term birth, moderate and late preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of low performance in mathematics and English language arts, chronic absenteeism, and suspension. These risks emerged in kindergarten through grade 2 and remained in grades 3-5, but seemed to wash out in later grades, with the exception of suspension, which remained through grades 9-12.
Confirming our hypothesis, moderate and late preterm birth was associated with adverse educational outcomes in late elementary school, indicating that it is a significant risk factor that school districts could leverage when targeting early intervention. Future studies will need to test these relations in geographically and socioeconomically diverse school districts, include a wider variety of outcomes, and consider how early interventions moderate associations between birth outcomes and educational outcomes.