Should Pregnant Women Limit Cell Phone Use?

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Highlights:
  • Maternal use of cell phone during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for behavioral problems in children.
  • Higher rate of prenatal cell phone use causes increased hyperactivity and inattention problems in child.
  • Low risk for any behavioral problems in children were seen with no prenatal cell phone use.
Children born to mothers who used cell phones frequently during pregnancy were more likely to suffer from behavioral problems, particularly hyperactivity/inattention problems known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, compared to children born to less frequent users.
Should Pregnant Mothers Limit Cell Phone Use?
Should Pregnant Women Limit Cell Phone Use?

The behavioral problems in children may be due to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones or many other factors like parenting styles, but there is no biological proof.

That does mean that expectant mothers should totally avoid cell phones.

"I would say interpret these results with caution, and everything in moderation," said lead author Laura Birks.

Relation Between Cell Phone Use and Behavioral Problems in Children

For the study, more than 80,000 mother-child pairs from Denmark, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands and Korea were analyzed in five different cohorts, at different time periods. The data was collected from 1996 to 2011.

Cell phone use was categorized into none, low, medium, and high, depending on frequency of calls during pregnancy reported by the mothers.

Child behavioral problems were classified in the borderline/clinical and clinical ranges in children aged 5-7 years, depending on Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire or Child Behavior Checklist, as reported by mothers.

The results showed that children born to mothers whose cell phone usage was high, demonstrated higher rates of behavioral problems, especially those between 5-7 years of age.

This strong link was similar across all five countries and time periods.

So far no known biological mechanism that could cause prenatally emitted cell phone radiation to promote hyperactivity in offspring has been proved.

Around 38.8% of mothers, mostly from the Danish cohort, reported no cell phone use during pregnancy and these mothers were less likely to have a child with overall behavioral, hyperactivity/inattention or emotional problems.

Children of mothers who reported being on at least four cell phone calls a day, or speaking on a cell phone for more than an hour a day, were 28% more likely to be hyperactive compared to children of mothers who reported being on one or lesser number of calls a day.

The results were same even after accounting for various confounding variables like maternal age, marital status and education.

Mothers who never used cell phones while pregnant, gave birth to children who had a lower risk of behavioral and emotional problems compared to any of the children whose mothers used cell phones.

Word of Caution

Parents need to consider that the time they spend glued to their cell phones, takes their time and attention away from their children.

When they fail to respond to their kids' needs, the children resort to other methods like creating a racket in order to earn the attention they crave for.

This reinforces hyperactive, attention-getting behavior in children.

The report is published in Environment International.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neuro-behavioral disorder that affects almost 3%-5% of the children in America. This condition is diagnosed in childhood.

The exact cause of the condition is not known. However, genetic and environmental factors are known to contribute to this condition.

It is characterized by an inability to focus on a task. Its main features are hyperactivity, inattention and impulsiveness.

Some symptoms of ADHD include:
  • failure to hold attention for long periods
  • having trouble responding
  • excess talking
  • constant fidgeting of hands and feet
 
References:
  1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - (https:medlineplus.gov/attentiondeficithyperactivitydisorder.html)
  2. What research is being done? - (https:www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder-Information-Page)
  3. Laura Birks et al. Maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and child behavioral problems in five birth cohorts. Environment International; (2017) doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.03.024

Source: Medindia

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