Will cellphone radiation harm my unborn baby?

Don't worry about using your cellphone during pregnancy, a study suggests.
Don't worry about using your cellphone during pregnancy, a study suggests.

There are many things we try to avoid during pregnancy to ensure optimum health for the unborn baby. Examples are alcohol, smoking and too much caffeine.

Scientists previously debated whether the radiation from wireless devices such as cellphones could harm an unborn baby's development; new research is disputing this.

Chatting away on a cellphone while pregnant doesn't appear to have a negative effect on the brain development of the growing foetus, a new study reports.

Inconsistent results

"The concern for harm to the foetus 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," said study lead author Eleni Papadopoulou, with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

"Even though this is an observational study, our findings do not support the hypothesis of adverse effects on the child's language, communication and motor skills due to the use of mobile phone during pregnancy," she said.

A large study

The researchers examined a large pool of data from a population-based pregnancy study in Norway. The data included information from more than 45 000 women and their babies during pregnancy and years after delivery.

The women in the study completed surveys about their cellphone use. Their children also underwent brain development evaluations at ages three and five years old.

The study found that exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields related to cellphones before birth wasn't associated with brain development issues.

"Our large study provides evidence that pregnant women's use of cellphones is not associated with risk of harming neurodevelopment of the foetus," said senior author Dr Jan Alexander, with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Reduced risk of language delay

When compared to children whose mothers didn't use a cellphone, the children whose moms did use one had a 27% reduced risk of lower sentence complexity and a 14% lower risk of incomplete grammar, the researchers said.

These children also had a 31% reduced risk of having moderate language delay and an 18% lower risk of low motor skills at the age of 3 years old.

But the study didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these factors; it only showed an association.

The study was published in BMC Public Health.

Previous studies suggested that cellphone use during pregnancy was harmful, but new research shows otherwise.

"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," Alexander said in a journal news release.

The study team adjusted the data for factors that might influence the findings, such as income, education, maternal personality and other psychological factors.

"We think this protective effect is more likely to be explained by factors not measured in this study having an impact on the mobile phone use and child's neurodevelopment, rather than the maternal mobile phone use in itself," Alexander said.

Image credit: iStock

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