'Tis the season
Season of conception tied to birth defect risk
Women who conceive in the spring or summer may run a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect - and pesticide exposure might help explain why, a new study suggests.

Using government data on U.S. births between 1996 and 2002, researchers found that birth defect rates were highest among women who'd conceived between April and July.

During those same months, surface-water concentrations of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals generally increased based on government water-quality assessments.

The findings, reported in the journal Acta Pediatrica, point to correlations between pesticide levels and birth defects, but do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

However, some of the chemicals tracked in the study, such as the weed killer atrazine, are suspected of causing harm to developing embryos, the researchers point out.

"While our study didn't prove a cause and effect link, the fact that birth defects and pesticides in surface water peak during the same four months makes us suspect that the two are related," lead researcher Dr. Paul Winchester, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, noted in a written statement.

Birth defects, such as cleft lip, spina bifida and Down syndrome, affect about 3 percent of U.S. newborns. Certain risk factors, including older age, smoking or drinking in mothers, have been established, but researchers are still trying to piece together the other environmental factors that might be at work.

If further studies confirm the current findings, Winchester noted, then there will be yet another modifiable risk factor for birth anomalies.

"What we are most excited about," he said, "is that if our suspicions are right and pesticides are contributing to birth defect risk, we can reverse or modify the factors that are causing these lifelong and often very serious medical problems."

SOURCE: Acta Pediatrica, April 2009.

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.


Want to know what your baby looks like and what you can expect at this stage?



Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.