Is mobile phone use safe during pregnancy?
New research suggests that using a mobile phone while pregnant is unlikely to have any adverse effects on child neurodevelopment.
Lead by Dr. Eleni Papadopoulou at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the team analyzed data taken from the large Norwegian population-based pregnancy cohort study MoBa, which collects data from mothers and children during and after pregnancy.
For their research, the team included 45,389 mother-child pairs who had provided self-reported data via a questionnaire on maternal mobile phone use, with children also receiving neurodevelopment follow-ups at ages 3 and 5.
The team found that children born to mobile phone users had a 27 percent lower risk of having lower sentence complexity, 14 percent lower risk of incomplete grammar and 31 percent lower risk of having moderate language delay, and an 18 percent lower risk of low motor skills at age 3, compared to the children of mothers who reported no mobile phone use.
The results held true after the team had adjusted for other factors and were also relative to the level of mobile phone use reported by the mother.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Papadopoulou said, “The concern for harm to the fetus caused by radio frequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones, is mainly driven by reports from experimental animal studies with inconsistent results. Even though this is an observational study, our findings do not support the hypothesis of adverse effects on child’s language, communication and motor skills due to the use of mobile phone during pregnancy.”
The team noted that the beneficial effect may be due to factors not measured in this study impacting mobile phone use and children’s neurodevelopment, rather than the mobile phone use itself.
As the amount of talk a child is exposed to can promote vocabulary and language skills, the team hinted that having a mother with a more extroverted personality could be a factor, hypothesizing that these mothers would talk more and may therefore also use their mobile more.
“We reported a decreased risk of low language and motor skills at three years in relation to prenatal cell phone use, which might be explained by enhanced maternal-child interaction among cell phone users,” they added.
“The beneficial effects we report should be interpreted with caution due to the limitations common in observational studies, but our findings should at least alleviate any concern mothers have about using their mobile phone while pregnant,” concluded Prof Jan Alexander, senior author.
The findings can be found published online in the journal BMC Public Health. JB
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