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Research findings

Child neurodevelopment not affected by mobile phone use in pregnancy

Mobile phone use during pregnancy is not linked to adverse effects on children’s language and motor skills, according to a study using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

Illustrasjonsbilde. Colourbox.com
Illustrasjonsbilde. Colourbox.com

“Our large study provides evidence that pregnant women’s use of cell phone is not associated with risk of harming neurodevelopment of the foetus,” says Dr Eleni Papadopoulou, researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and primary author of the article published in BioMed Central.

Together with Professor Jan Alexander, Dr Papadopoulou analysed self-reported data about maternal mobile phone use and child development at 3 and 5 years of age from over 45 000 mother-child pairs in MoBa.

Surprising benefit

They found that children born to mobile phone users actually had a lower risk of poor language and motor skills at 3 years of age than those who did not use mobile phones. The study accounted for factors that could affect the results, such as maternal personality, mental health and parenting style. The protective effect is probably due to unmeasured factors such as social and family background rather than parental mobile phone use.

“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,” adds Dr Papadopoulou.

Although this study did not report any development issues at 5 years of age, another study with data from five birth cohorts, including MoBa, reported a higher risk of hyperactivity/inattention among 5 year-olds [1].  It should be noted, however, that high mobile phone use for the Norwegian women was related to a lower risk of emotional problems at 5 years.

More research required

MoBa recruited participants between 2000 and 2009, and during that period, mobile phone use increased dramatically. Since 2009, the introduction of smart phone technology has significantly altered mobile phone habits.

“Even though we cannot be sure that we would see the same results if the study was conducted today with the widespread use of smart phones, the physical exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields has not changed that much” says Dr Papadopoulou.

There are still large gaps in knowledge about the effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on human health so further research is needed.

Reference

Maternal cell phone use in early pregnancy and child's language, communication and motor skills at 3 and 5 years: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) Papadopoulou et al. BMC Public Health September 2017.

Other reference mentioned in article

 [1] Birks L et al Maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and child behavioural problems in five birth cohorts. Environment International (2017).