Over time, there have been several opinions from scientists and other researchers regarding whether premature babies tend to be smarter than full-term babies.
This debate has lingered for too long, so I have decided to research the subject, collecting relevant information from reliable sources and bringing them to you.
So far, the truth is there is no specific study that links smartness to premature babies. However, some researchers believe that premature birth can develop the brain so well that the child will grow up and even become a genius.
I find that rather interesting for the most part.
So, the essence of this guide is to enlighten everyone out there about the possibility of a premature baby and what’s obtainable in such a regard.
That said, let’s get started.
Are Premature Babies Smarter?
Irrespective of the maturity at birth, newborns develop their brains differently. While many publications claim that premature birth causes poorer brain development, some researchers think premature babies are smarter.
Here are some scientific findings about preemies’ brain development.
It’s uncertain how premature birth affects how the brain develops.
However, let’s first examine how premature babies’ brains develop before we discuss what science has to say about their aptitude.
First, according to research, premature babies have decreased cerebral volumes from 7 years to 15 years. The researchers added that the other brain areas similarly had reduced volumes compared to their age-matched full-term counterparts.
Scientists now think that different parts of the brain are “differently vulnerable” to alterations as a result of other investigations. For instance, the left hemisphere is more likely to be damaged than the right hemisphere.
It’s interesting to note that biological gender also influences brain changes, with male preemies more susceptible to white matter modifications than female preemies.
Bottom line: It’s still unknown how preterm affects brain development. There are currently competing ideologies: many think that learning challenges are caused by preterm.
In actuality, learning difficulties, as well as social and emotional issues, could develop over time as a result of premature delivery. However, some encouraging findings suggest that premature babies are smarter.
Let’s look at a few of these research projects.
Interruption of brain activity affects cognitive functions in premature babies.
Do premature babies benefit cognitively? It seems implausible, say several of the King’s College London researchers.
55 preemies and 10 full-term newborns were compared to evaluate how the cerebral cortex developed using diffusion MRI. They discovered preemies have “reduced cortical development compared to term newborns.”
When the newborns were re-evaluated at age two, the researchers found that the kids with the least cortical development “did less well” on neurodevelopmental tests.
It is concluded that some crucial brain functions are disrupted by preterm, which impacts the infant’s cognitive development.
Brain development is impacted by prematurity.
Scientists from King’s College London and Child & Family Research Institute reached nearly identical conclusions. 95 preemies had brain scans done, and it was discovered that those who grow also develop the cerebral cortex more slowly.
According to co-leader Dr. Steven Miller, the findings are the first step in establishing the connection between premature babies’ growth and brain development. Science might learn how to “optimize” their brain development with more research.
So, according to several research, premature babies are more intelligent.
But let’s talk about the notion that premature babies have cognitive advantages.
Two-thirds of infants born at barely 23 or 24 weeks can start kindergarten on time, according to a study including 1.3 million premature babies. So it’s interesting that approximately 2% of them are classified as “gifted.”
On the other hand, a different study contends that preemies have “older” brains. The researchers examined the brain scans of 328 people born earlier than the 33rd week in the study led by Dr. Chiara Nosarti.
Both the participants’ teens and their maturity were used for the analysis.
The scans were then put side by side with 232 individuals who had been delivered at term.
More specifically, they measured the amount of grey matter, the area of the brain that is thought to be a sign of brain aging. The parts of the brain that are in charge of memory, sensory perception, and other cognitive processes are also housed in the grey matter.
Surprisingly, people born very early had reduced grey matter volume as adults. According to this, their brains appear “older” than their full-term counterparts.
Because preemies have delayed brain maturation, Dr. Chiara Nosarti underlined that the results are unexpected. In her final statement, she stressed that they haven’t yet determined how these changes connect to the participants’ daily lives.
As previously stated, there are differences in brain development regardless of the baby’s maturity at birth. For example, some studies say premature babies may develop more slowly than term babies, but other research suggests they may be smarter.
In the end, parents must lower the risk of preterm birth because it is linked to several health issues. Working very closely with their child’s pediatrician after the baby is born, parents can help their child’s health.
What Is Premature Birth
Premature birth is when a baby is born more than three weeks before its anticipated due date. In other words, preterm delivery happens before the 37th week of gestation.
Babies born prematurely, especially those very early, frequently have complex medical issues. Prematurity-related problems often differ. However, the danger of difficulties increases with the time of birth of your baby.
A baby’s age might vary depending on how early they are born.
- Late preterm, birthed between 34 & 36 concluded weeks of gestation
- Moderately preterm, birthed between 32 & 34 weeks of gestation
- Very preterm, delivered at the end of a pregnancy before 32 weeks
- Extremely preterm birth, occurring before or at week 25 of pregnancy/Gestation.
Indications Of Premature Birth
Your kid could have more glaring difficulties from being born prematurely or very modest signs.
Prematurity can show itself in the following ways:
- Smaller than a full-term infant, with an enormous head; Sharper-looking, fewer round features than a full-term child’s features, caused by an absence of fat storage.
- Lack of body fat reserves causing low bodily temperature, particularly right after delivery in the delivery ward; Labored breath or respiratory distress; Absence of reflexes towards sucking & swallowing, causing difficulty with feeding;
Premature birth frequently has an underlying reason that is unclear. But there are recognized risk factors for early birth, such as:
- Previous premature delivery
- Twin, triplet, or other multiple pregnancies
- Having children through in vitro fertilization
- Experiencing uterine, cervix, or placental issues
- smoking cigars or using illegal drugs
- Waiting less than six months between pregnancies
- Some infections, especially those affecting the mother amniotic fluid & lower genital tract
- Several chronic illnesses, Like elevated blood pressure & diabetes
- being overweight or underweight before conception
- Stressful life circumstances, like the loss of a close relative or domestic abuse
- Abortions or numerous miscarriages
- Physical trauma or injury.
Short-Term Difficulties Of Premature Birth
Breathing issues may be one of the early difficulties of premature delivery. A premature baby’s undeveloped respiratory system may cause breathing difficulties.
Because the infant’s lungs can’t contract and expand regularly, they may suffer respiratory distress syndrome if they don’t have surfactant, a material that makes the lungs expand.
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a lung condition that can affect premature babies. Additionally, some premature babies may develop apnea or extended breathing pauses.
Low blood pressure and patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) are the two most typical heart issues that preterm babies encounter (hypotension).
A gap between the infant’s aorta and the pulmonary artery is known as a PDA. Even though this heart condition frequently resolves by itself, if left unattended, it can result in heart failure, a murmur in the heart, and other consequences.
Adjustments to intravenous fluids, medications, and even blood transfusions may be necessary for those with low blood pressure.
An intraventricular hemorrhage—brain bleeding—is more likely to occur immediately after a child is born in the ward.
The majority of hemorrhages are minor and have minimal immediate consequences. However, some infants may experience more severe brain bleeding that results in lifelong brain damage.
Issues With Temperature Regulation
Premature babies can quickly lose their body heat. This is because they lack the bodily fat reserves of a fully developed child and cannot produce sufficient heat to offset the heat lost through their skin.
An unusually low core body temperature known as “hypothermia” could occur if the body temperature falls too low.
A premature newborn with hypothermia may experience respiratory difficulties and low blood sugar.
Premature babies can expend all their energy from feedings to remain warm. Because of this, tinier premature babies need supplemental heat from an incubator or warmer until they are big enough to regulate their body temperatures.
Due to their undeveloped digestive systems, premature newborns are more susceptible to complications like necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
After premature newborns begin feeding, this potentially dangerous disorder, where the cells in charge of lining the intestinal wall are damaged, might develop. However, exclusively breastfed infants have a significantly lesser risk of having NEC.
Premature babies are more likely to experience blood issues like anemia and neonatal jaundice.
The body’s lack of sufficient red blood cells (RBCs) is anemia. All newborns gradually lose red blood cells over the first several months of life, although premature babies may have a more significant loss.
Because the infant’s blood contains too much bilirubin, a yellowish pigment from their liver or RBCs, there is a yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes of the newborn. Jaundice can have a variety of causes, but premature babies are more likely to get it.
Issues With Metabolism
Babies that are born premature frequently experience metabolic issues. Some premature babies may experience abnormally low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
This is possible because full-term neonates often have more significant amounts of reserved glucose than premature babies.
Additionally, it is more difficult for premature neonates to convert their reserve glucose to more functional, active types of glucose.
Issues With The Immune System
Premature babies mostly have weak immune systems, increasing their infection risk. Like Sepsis, an infection that travels to the child’s bloodstream can be quickly brought on by infection in a premature newborn.
Premature delivery may eventually result in the following issues:
A cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It is caused by brain damage, usually before or at birth.
Symptoms can include muscle weakness, stiffness, poor coordination, and problems with speech, vision, and hearing. The severity of symptoms can vary widely, and other developmental disabilities often accompany the condition.
There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. However, various treatments and therapies can help improve symptoms and increase the person’s ability to function. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and medication.
Surgery may also be used to correct specific physical abnormalities. Additionally, assistive devices and adaptive equipment can help individuals with cerebral palsy to live more independently.
Babies born prematurely are more likely to miss developmental milestones than their full-term peers. In addition, when a child reaches school age, learning disabilities may be more prevalent in premature babies.
Retinopathy of prematurity is a condition that affects premature babies. It is brought on by blood vessel swelling and overgrowing in the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye (retina).
The aberrant retinal arteries can occasionally damage the retina over time, moving it out of place. Retinal detachment happens when the retina pulls away from the rear of the eye. If left untreated, this condition can hinder vision and result in blindness.
Premature babies are more likely to experience some degree of disability. Therefore, before being sent home, every baby will have their hearing tested.
Critically unwell premature babies are more likely to experience dental issues, including tooth discoloration, slowed tooth eruption, and misaligned teeth.
Behavioral & Mental Health Issues
Premature babies might be more prone to specific behavioral or psychiatric issues and developmental deficits than full-term babies.
Long-Term Health Problems
Compared to full-term infants, premature babies are more likely to suffer chronic health conditions, some of which may need hospital treatment.
For example, it is more probable that infections, asthma, & eating issues will manifest or worsen. Additionally, premature babies are more likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Even though the precise reason for preterm birth is frequently unknown, there are a few things that could be done to assist women — particularly those who have an elevated risk — to lower their risk, including:
Supplements For Progesterone
Progesterone supplementation may lower the risk of preterm delivery in women with a history of preterm birth, short cervixes, or both.
Cervical cerclage If a woman has a short cervix or a record of cervical shortening resulting in a preterm birth, she may need to undergo this surgical treatment during pregnancy.
Strong sutures are used to shut the cervix during this treatment, which could give the uterus additional stability. When it’s time to birth the baby, the sutures are taken out. If you need to refrain from strenuous activities for the balance of your pregnancy, ask your doctor.
Developmental Care For Premature Babies
Numerous improvements have been made in treating unwell and premature babies, not just in technology & medicine but also in addressing these infants’ unique emotional and developmental requirements.
In contrast to the warm, dark comfort of the mother’s womb, newborns are frequently subjected to examinations, procedures, noises, and lights in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Some infants are too ill to be held or have trouble calming themselves when alone. A nurturing atmosphere is essential for premature babies to grow and develop as they would in their mother’s womb.
To fulfill the unique needs of neonates, developmental care is a common practice in NICUs. The provision of developmental care encompasses various activities, from attending to babies’ comfort needs to reducing exposure to stimuli like noise, light, or medical treatments.
Numerous advantages of developmental care for infants, particularly for premature babies, are being discovered through research. These advantages include shortened hospital stays, fewer side effects, better weight gain, improved feeding, and improved parent-infant bonding.
The following modifications are made as part of developmental care:
- The general physical environment—changing the surroundings to create regular day/night cycles and reduce noise and stress
- The baby’s immediate environment should include cushions to support the baby’s position and keep the baby’s arms and legs in the correct positions for comfort and development.
- How care is given—using the infant’s signals to schedule care when the baby is awake and less stressed rather than interfering with sleep patterns or carrying out procedures whenever the baby is under a lot of stress.
There are no facts that link smartness to premature birth, although some researchers believe that some premature birth can develop the brain so well that the child will grow up and become a genius.
However, many publications claim that premature birth causes poorer brain development.