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Pregnancy risks studied

Tuesday September 27th, 2011

Women exposed to a range of chemicals during pregnancy may face an increased risk of their child developing asthma, researchers warned yesterday.

The finding was one of several about the health risks of pregnancy reported at a range of European conferences yesterday.

Another study suggests that drug treatments for cancer may not do harm to a woman's pregnancy. And a third highlights the benefits of keeping fit during pregnancy.

Danish researchers studied the background of more than 42,000 children for their study of the causes of asthma, reported to the conference of the European Respiratory Society in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Researchers found a small increase in asthma risk among the children of women exposed to "low molecular weight" substances, such as synthetic chemicals at work. These include glues, paints and varnish.

Some 18.6 per cent of the children of these women had asthma by the age of seven. This compared with 15.8 per cent of all the children studied.

Researcher Dr Berit Hvass Christensen, from the Denmark School of Public Health, said: “This is the first large-scale study which has shown an association between maternal exposures during work and asthma in children.

"Whilst a link has been found, our results at this stage are modest and further research is needed into specific chemicals and substances to determine those that could be most harmful.”

Society president Professor Marc Decramer said the research highlighted the society's concerns about high levels of pollution and allergy-causing substances in workplaces.

He said: "We believe that everyone is entitled to clean indoor air and we can achieve this by taking positive steps towards managing air quality in the workplace.”

* Meanwhile in Stockholm, Sweden, a cancer conference heard that researchers found no sign of ill-effects on the children of mothers treated with chemotherapy during pregnancy.

Researchers found the main problems occurred because babies in these circumstances are likely to be born early - affecting their brain development.

Professor Frederic Amant, of the University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium, studied the fate of some 70 children for periods of up to 18 years - although on average children were studied for two years.

Apart from problems linked to prematurity, the researchers found no evidence of learning problems, nor of heart abnormalities.

Professor Amant will tell the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress : "Our results so far suggest that children who were prenatally exposed to chemotherapy seem to do as well as children in the general population, and, that the treatment does not influence the development of mental processes or the functioning of the heart in the children we have followed for an average of 22 months.

"It is important to prevent preterm birth if possible and continue pregnancy until at least 37 weeks, as the data suggest the children suffer more from prematurity than from prenatal chemotherapy."

* A third study by German researchers suggests that a mother who keeps fit may help equip her child against Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

Dr Kathy Keyvani, of the University Hospital Essen, Germany, studied the question in laboratory mice. The findings are reported in the FASEB Journal.

Journal editor Dr Gerald Weissmann said: "No one is resistant to the health benefits of exercise and this research confirms that reasonable workouts can have a lifetime of benefits for your offspring.

"Whether you work out at home or go to the gym, you should do it for the sake of your health and that of your offspring."

Arne Herring, Anja Donath, Maksym Yarmolenko, Ellen Uslar, Catharina Conzen, Dimitrios Kanakis, Claudius Bosma, Karl Worm, Werner Paulus, and Kathy Keyvani. Exercise during pregnancy mitigates Alzheimer-like pathology in mouse offspring. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.11-193193

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Brain & Neurology | Cancer | Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Fitness | Respiratory | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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