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BACKGROUND: Acidemia at birth is very common but little is known about its long-term consequences. AIM: To determine if pH at birth is related to established tests of intellectual function. SUBJECTS: School children aged 6-8, for whom obstetric data were available, who had been delivered after labour at term, and had an umbilical cord arterial pH>7.00 (i.e. that was not extremely acidemic). STUDY DESIGN/OUTCOMES: Retrospective cohort study correlating birth and arterial pH data with childhood tests for non-verbal intelligence, grammar comprehension and literacy. METHODS: Relationships between pH and cognitive measures were analysed with parametric correlations. Partial correlations were used to examine these relationships, controlling for possible confounding factors. RESULTS: Arterial pH was significantly negatively correlated with literacy (p=0.001) and with non-verbal intelligence (p=0.033). CONCLUSIONS: Lower arterial pH is associated with higher scores on literacy and non-verbal intelligence tests at ages 6-8. This is unlikely to be a chance finding and is further evidence that acidemia in isolation should not be considered an adverse outcome. Further research on the relationship between labour and long-term cognitive measures is required.

Original publication




Journal article


Early Hum Dev

Publication Date





37 - 41


Child, Cohort Studies, Female, Fetal Blood, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Infant, Newborn, Intelligence, Intelligence Tests, Pregnancy, Retrospective Studies