Mobile phones, HIV medicines hurting your unborn baby

By Gatonye Gathura

Overuse of mobile phones by pregnant women as well as HIV medicines are likely to lead to poor birth outcomes, shows recent evidence.

A follow-up of 322 Kenyan mothers who had conceived while on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs showed high rates of pre- term deliveries, miscarriages and still births.

HIV experts presenting the evidence last week at a major HIV conference in Paris France, want urgent investigation carried out to determine the effects of ARVs on the unborn child.

“Studies specifically designed to investigate the effects of ARV exposure from conception on pregnancy outcomes are urgently needed,”

In her presentation in Paris, Dr Susan Cu-Uvin of Brown University, US, said the study they had carried out with the Kenya Medical Research Institute showed cause for worry for HIV positive women who want to conceive.

Of the 322 women in the study and who had conceived while on ARVs, there were 164 live births. Of these more than half, 53 per cent were delivered before full term, there were 11 still births, 51 miscarriages and 28 abortions by choice.

“Women who conceived on ART in these trials had high numbers of preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes,” Dr Cu-Uvin had explained.

But ARVs are not the only threat to the unborn child with new evidence from Japan showing pregnant women who overuse mobile phones are likely to deliver underweight babies.

The study by the Kumamoto University of Japan says excessive mobile phone use during pregnancy may be a risk factor for lower birth weight babies.

Children born of low birth weight have been associated with poor growth, low immunity and chronic diseases in later life.

In the Japanese study appearing in the journal of Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine the researchers had followed 521 pregnant women and their use of mobile phones.

The investigators collected data on their phone usage, use times, location of the phone during the day and at night, and power state either off or on during sleep.

The team report single mothers to have had excessive use of mobile phones. They apportion higher levels of loneliness and depression among single mothers to possible lack of partner support during pregnancy hence more use of the phone.

“We also found that the excessive use group preferred to place the mobile phone in the trouser or shirt pocket,” says the study.

This they interpret to mean that the excessive use group preferred to have the mobile phone in an easily accessible location.

The study suggests that excessive mobile phone use during pregnancy may cause mental problems, such as anxiety and depression, and health problems, such as sleep problems and sleeplessness. “This is thought to affect the development of the unborn child.”