Getting Pregnant In Spring, Summer Linked to Birth Defects

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2009-03-30 18:36

A new study suggests that women who get pregnant in spring or summer in the United States may be at risk for delivering infants with birth defects, which include spina bifida, cleft lip, clubfoot and Down's syndrome.

Study author Paul Winchester, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine professor of clinical pediatrics explains, "Elevated concentrations of pesticides and other agrochemicals in surface water during April through July coincided with significantly higher risk of birth defects in live births conceived by women whose last menstrual period began in the same months. 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."

The strong association between birth defects among women who conceive in spring and summer was seen when the researchers examined records of 30.1 million births in the U.S., occurring between 1996 and 2002. The scientists studied 22 categories of birth defects, and found a significant increase in half of birth defect categories, related to the last month of menses, taken from a Centers for Disease Control database from 1996 to 2002.

The scientists suggest that, in the US, elevated levels of nitrates, atrazine and other pesticides appear in surface water during the same months, making birth defects from pesticides a likely possibility when conception occurs during spring or summer.

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