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Pregnant moms and cellphones: A surprising new 'risk'

A new study finds a link between expectant moms who regularly use cellphones and children who misbehave, but is it just a coincidence?

Here's yet another thing pregnant women may want to avoid: Using a cellphone. That's the conclusion of a University of California study, which found that Danish women who regularly used a cellphone while pregnant are more likely to report behavioral issues with their children. Here's a concise guide to these claims:

What did researchers actually find?
Children whose mothers used mobile phones while they were in the womb were 30 percent more likely to experience behavioral difficulties by age 7 than children of cellphone-averse moms. If the children started using cellphones themselves at an early age, the odds of behaving badly rose to 50 percent. The University of California study was based on a survey of 28,000 Danish 7-year-olds and their mothers.

What's the science behind this link?
Actually, the researchers do not identify a specific, causal link between cellphone use and behavioral problems. They suggest that cellphone use "might" cause mothers to produce excess melatonin, which could "potentially influence the brain development of the fetus." But they acknowledge that conclusion is speculative. According to study co-author Dr. Leeka Kheifets: "If real — and given the nearly universal use of cell phones — the impact on the public's health could be of concern."

If there's no scientific proof, couldn't it just be a coincidence?
Yes, or a statistical anomaly. "The pattern of results suggests the increase in behavioral problems may have been caused by factors other than mobile phone use," says University of Southampton Professor David Coggon, quoted in The Daily Mail.

So should we listen to this advice?
Despite the "somewhat vague and inconclusive" results of this study, says Sandy Maple at Babble, it's worth being careful about cellphone use around your unborn child or toddler. "While we would all like to assume that using [cellphones] as much as we do is harmless, the truth is that only time and more research will tell for sure."

Sources: Babble, The New York Times, The Daily Mail, I.T. Wire

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