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Morning Sickness In Pregnancy Linked To Smarter Babies


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Moms-to-be who suffer from morning sickness throughout pregnancy might give birth to smarter and brighter baby, suggests new Canadian research.

Scientists at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children's Motherisk Program discovered that morning sickness appears to be associated with enhanced neurodevelopment of the fetus and that babies whose mothers suffered from nausea and vomiting, later tested a few IQ points higher than the children whose mothers had nauseous-free pregnancies.

Morning sickness, which affects as many as 80 per cent of pregnant women, is the most common condition of pregnancy and often one of the first of its signs. The condition typically starts around the second week of pregnancy. It is the most common reason for a woman to be hospitalized in her first trimester, and, in some severe cases, can result in dehydration, salt and vitamin imbalances as well as weight loss. Morning sickness is little understood, but many doctors assume that it is linked to altered levels of hormones, such as estrogen, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), and thyroxine.

It has been known for a long time that nausea is an indicator of a healthy pregnancy. The condition has been associated with a lower risk of miscarriage and a lower risk of heart malformations in the fetus. Some scientists believe that morning sickness is a defensive mechanism of the body to let women vomit out things she might have eaten that may be harmful for the fetus. And while past research has concentrated on how pregnancy queasiness affects the outcomes of pregnancies, this new study appears to be the first to look at the long-term impact of the nausea on the cognitive skills of the babies at a later time.

The new findings were based on the study of 121 pregnant women who have been recruited through a morning sickness hotline run by the Motherisk program between 1998 and 2003. Participants were assigned into three groups: the first group included 45 mothers who experienced morning sickness and were treated with Diclectin (a drug that is used to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy), the second group included 47 women who went through a morning sickness torture and did not take any medication, and finally, the third group consisted of 29 participants who did not suffer from morning sickness at all. The women had similar IQs and came from similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Other factors such as number of cigarettes smoked by a mother every day and alcohol consumption were also taken into consideration.

When the children of those pregnancies reached the ages of 3 and then 7, they all were assessed with a number of age-appropriate psychological tests, including measures of intelligence and behavior. The results revealed that all kids across the three groups scored within a normal range of neuro-developmental outcome. However, the children of mothers with morning sickness scored higher on performance IQ (games and tasks), numerical memory, verbal fluency and phonological processing, which shows how well children learn the sounds of letters and letter combinations.

The experts discovered that the more severe the morning nausea was, the more likely were the kids to get higher scores. They noted that maternal IQ also played not a last a role in the outcome. Furthermore, the study found that kids whose mothers who were taking the drug Diclectin for the relief of pregnancy-related nausea, did not have lower scores than children whose mothers did not take the drug in order to cope with morning sickness.

The authors of this study say that morning sickness is still puzzling and that there is a need for further investigation to find out what exactly is triggering it. That could then help the scientists to come up with better ways to manage it.

The findings of the study are published in the online edition of The Journal of Pediatrics. The study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, SickKids Foundation and Research Leadership for Better Pharmacotherapy in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

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