Avoiding 21st Century Hazards While You’re Pregnant

Avoiding 21st Century Hazards While You’re Pregnant

"Can you hear me now?” “Can you hear me now? ”  When actor Paul Marcarelli uttered that phrase -- over, and over, and over again -- in a mobile phone company ad, we’re pretty sure he never thought the question should be directed at pregnant women and their fetuses. But that’s what researchers from Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in New York City wondered about. So they tracked 28 obstetrics and gynecology residents, all of whom were in their third trimester and carried beepers or cellphones near their fetus's head.

Preliminary findings, presented at the 2015 American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meeting were that a cell phone’s ringing, beeping and buzzing startles a fetus and disrupts its sleep patterns. (The researchers also pointed out that studies of pregnant women who live near airports have found aviation noise also startles fetuses.)

Over time around 60% of the fetuses toned down their reaction to the cell phones, even as the researchers made the noise more frequent, but that doesn’t mean the sounds don’t continue to change normal fetal behavior. The scientists’ advice to pregnant women: Keep cell phones as far away from your belly and the fetus’s head as possible.

Another finding from the same meeting: While pregnant, e-cigs are NOT safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes, according to researchers from the University of Maryland. The nicotine they (usually) contain alters brain development in a growing embryo, and some e-cigs contain heavy metals that can also be harmful. Even the American Vaping Association says pregnant women shouldn’t vape.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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