Does Cell Phone Use During Pregnancy Increase Childhood Behavioral Problems? Interview with:
Laura Birks, MPH, Predoctoral Fellow
Instituto de Salud Global de Barcelona – Campus MAR
Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) (office 183.01B)
Barcelona, Spain What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies in Denmark and the Netherlands have reported associations between prenatal cell phone use and child behavioral problems, but findings have been inconsistent and based on retrospective assessment of cell phone use. This study aimed to assess this association in a multi-national analysis, using data from three cohorts with prospective data on prenatal cell phone use, together with previously published data from two cohorts with retrospectively collected cell phone use data.

We found that cell phone use during pregnancy was associated with increased risk for behavioral problems in offspring, specifically hyperactivity/inattention problems. This association was fairly consistent across cohorts and between cohorts with retrospectively and prospectively collected cell phone use data. While our models were adjusted for many confounders, it is possible that other factors could explain this association, such as hyperactivity in the mother or parenting styles (variables that were not collected in these cohorts). Furthermore, to date there is no known biological mechanism that could explain the association. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Readers should interpret these results with caution. Further research is needed to fully understand the reasons for this association. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future prospective cohort studies should collect data regarding hyperactivity/inattention in the mother as well as parenting styles in the home. Furthermore, our study measured cell phone use by asking the mother how many calls she made each day on average during her pregnancy, but some studies have found that cell phone users can be inaccurate reporters of use. Future studies could use a more objective metric such as individual reports from the cell phone carrier regarding number of calls, duration of calls, and data usage. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The authors would particularly like to thank all participants for their generous collaboration. This work is supported by the European Union (grant 603794). Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Environ Int. 2017 Apr 6. pii: S0160-4120(16)30738-3. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.03.024. [Epub ahead of print]
Maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and child behavioral problems in five birth cohorts.
Birks L1, Guxens M2, Papadopoulou E3, Alexander J3, Ballester F4, Estarlich M4, Gallastegi M5, Ha M6, Haugen M7, Huss A8, Kheifets L9, Lim H6, Olsen J10, Santa-Marina L11, Sudan M12, Vermeulen R13, Vrijkotte T14, Cardis E15, Vrijheid M15.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on May 3, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD