Long term cognitive outcomes of early term (37-38 weeks) and late preterm (34-36 weeks) births: A systematic review

Sarah R. Murray, Susan D. Shenkin, Kirsten McIntosh, Jane Lim, Benjamin Grove, Jill P. Pell, Jane E. Norman, Sarah J. Stock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is a paucity of evidence regarding long-term outcomes of late preterm (34-36 weeks) and early term (37-38 weeks) delivery. The objective of this systematic review was to assess long-term cognitive outcomes of children born at these gestations. Methods: Four electronic databases (Medline, Embase, clinicaltrials.gov and PsycINFO) were searched. Last search was 5 th August 2016. Studies were included if they reported gestational age, IQ measure and the ages assessed. The protocol was registered with the International prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO Record CRD42015015472). Two independent reviewers assessed the studies. Data were abstracted and critical appraisal performed of eligible papers. Results: Of 11,905 potential articles, seven studies reporting on 41,344 children were included. For early term births, four studies (n = 35,711) consistently showed an increase in cognitive scores for infants born at full term (39-41 weeks) compared to those born at early term (37-38 weeks) with increases for each week of term (difference between 37 and 40 weeks of around 3 IQ points), despite differences in age of testing and method of IQ/cognitive testing. Four studies (n = 5644) reporting childhood cognitive outcomes of late preterm births (34 - 36 weeks) also differed in study design (cohort and case control); age of testing; and method of IQ testing, and found no differences in outcomes between late preterm and term births, although risk of bias was high in included studies. Conclusion: Children born at 39-41 weeks have higher cognitive outcome scores compared to those born at early term (37-38 weeks). This should be considered when discussing timing of delivery. For children born late preterm, the data is scarce and when compared to full term (37-42 weeks) did not show any difference in IQ scores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2017


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