Mobile phone use during pregnancy is unlikely to have any adverse effects on child neuro-development, according to Norwegian research. These findings provide further evidence that exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields associated with maternal use of mobile phones during pregnancy is not linked to neuro-development in children.
Dr Eleni Papadopoulou, lead author from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said: “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. 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 researchers analysed data from a large Norwegian population-based pregnancy cohort study called MoBa, which involves a range of data collected from mothers and children during and after pregnancy. Data used in this study included 45,389 mother-child pairs for whom self-reported questionnaire data was available on maternal mobile phone use and neuro-development follow ups of the children at ages 3 and 5.
Professor Jan Alexander, senior author from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said: “Our investigation revealed for the first time that maternal mobile phone use may actually have a positive impact. More specifically, mobile phone use in pregnancy was associated with lower risk of the child having low language and motor skills at 3 years of age. Although we adjusted for important socio-demographic characteristics as well as maternal personality and 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 neuro-development, rather than the maternal mobile phone use in itself.”
The researchers found that children born to mobile phone users had a 27% lower risk of having lower sentence complexity, 14% lower risk of incomplete grammar and 31% lower risk of having moderate language delay at age 3, compared to children of mothers who reported no mobile phone use. They also found that children born to mobile phone users had an 18% lower risk of low motor skills at age 3, compared to children born to non-users of mobile phones. The beneficial effects remained even after adjusting for relevant confounders and were also relative to the level of reported mobile phone use by the mother.
Alexander said: “Our large study provides evidence that pregnant women’s use of cell phone is not associated with risk of harming neuro-development of the foetus. 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.”
Background: Cell phone use during pregnancy is a public health concern. We investigated the association between maternal cell phone use in pregnancy and child’s language, communication and motor skills at 3 and 5 years.
Methods: This prospective study includes 45,389 mother-child pairs, participants of the MoBa, recruited at mid-pregnancy from 1999 to 2008. Maternal frequency of cell phone use in early pregnancy and child language, communication and motor skills at 3 and 5 years, were assessed by questionnaires. Logistic regression was used to estimate the associations.
Results: No cell phone use in early pregnancy was reported by 9.8% of women, while 39%, 46.9% and 4.3% of the women were categorized as low, medium and high cell phone users. Children of cell phone user mothers had 17% (OR = 0.83, 95% CI: 0.77, 0.89) lower adjusted risk of having low sentence complexity at 3 years, compared to children of non-users. The risk was 13%, 22% and 29% lower by low, medium and high maternal cell phone use. Additionally, children of cell phone users had lower risk of low motor skills score at 3 years, compared to children of non-users, but this association was not found at 5 years. We found no association between maternal cell phone use and low communication skills.
Conclusions: 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. No evidence of adverse neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal cell phone use was reported.
Eleni Papadopoulou, Margaretha Haugen, Synnve Schjølberg, Per Magnus, Gunnar Brunborg, Martine Vrijheid, Jan Alexander