Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Thousands of children are conceived each year through assisted reproductive technologies, treatments meant to help couples who have fertility problems. But a new study of Danish children is linking fertility treatments with an increased risk that the children will develop a mental health problem later in life. Researchers described the increased risk as “modest,” but identifiable nonetheless when they compared children born to parents who underwent fertility treatments with children who were conceived without intervention.
The study looked at nearly 2.5 million children born between the years 1969 and 2006, most of whose parents who had no known fertility problems. Five percent of the parents had “registered fertility problems.” The children’s medical histories were followed until 2009, with researchers looking for any psychiatric disorders that required hospitalization. The children born to women with fertility problems were 33 percent more likely to have a psychiatric disorder, as ScienceDaily reports:
When separate analyses were performed for psychiatric disorders diagnosed during childhood (0-19 years) and in young adulthood (≥20 years), the investigators found that the risk estimates were not markedly changed, indicating that the increased risks persist into adulthood.
Commenting on the results, Dr. [Allan] Jensen said that professionals involved in the diagnosis and treatment of women with fertility problems should be aware of “the small, but potentially increased risk of psychiatric disorders among the children born to women with fertility problems.” However, this knowledge, he added, “should always be balanced against the physical and psychological benefits of a pregnancy.”
Only a few studies have investigated the risk of psychiatric disorders among children born after fertility treatment. Although results from most of these studies do not find an increased risk, the results do show substantial variation, said Dr Jensen; this may be because of the limited size and follow-up time in most of them. This study is the first with sufficient numbers and an adequately long follow-up period to enable a realistic assessment of risk patterns into young adulthood.
Jensen added that the study did not make a conclusion on whether it was fertility treatments or the underlying cause of the infertility–possibly genetic–that was responsible for the increased mental health risk.
Image: Fertility lab, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Children who are short but otherwise healthy, and who are treated with growth hormone (GH) do in fact become taller, but they also are at increased risk of suffering from depression as they grow older, according to new research presented to the a joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society. The findings compared kids who received GH treatment to kids who were of similar height and age but did not receive treatment. Kids who received treatment had more psychological and psychosocial issues than those who did not–although the researchers urged more research on whether it’s the treatment itself or the culture around receiving treatment that had the greatest impact on mental health. More from ScienceDaily:
“Daily injections, frequent clinic visits and repeated discussions about height might exacerbate instead of improve psychosocial concerns in children with idiopathic short stature (ISS) who are otherwise healthy, and give them no cognitive improvements,” said lead author Emily C. Walvoord, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
While the link between using GH to increase height and improved psychological adaptation is being debated, early data suggest that the subtle cognitive problems seen in adults with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) might also occur in children with GHD and might improve with treatment.
Dr. Walvoord and her colleagues evaluated the cognitive and behavioral status of children with GHD and ISS after they received either GH therapy or observation alone, and their preliminary results presented here challenge the idea that improvements in height also result in improvements in psychological functioning. Their findings also raise the concern that GH treatment of these otherwise healthy children might even worsen their emotional symptoms.
Image: Short child, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Being bullied has been found in a new study to raise a protein level in the bloodstream that’s linked to both physical and mental health problems. More from The New York Times:
Being bullied raises the blood’s level of C-reactive protein, or CRP, a marker of systemic inflammation and a risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases.
Scientists followed 1,420 boys and girls ages 9 to 21, interviewing bullies, victims and their parents. They assessed CRP levels with periodic blood tests.
After controlling for initial levels of CRP and for many factors that affect it — sex, age, race and various health and socioeconomic issues — the researchers found that CRP levels in victims increased in direct proportion to the number of bullying incidents they experienced.
Bullies, in contrast, had low increases in CRP, even lower than those in children not involved in bullying at all. The finding suggested that a bully’s increased social status might have biological advantages, the scientists said. Their study was published online on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The only other kind of social adversity where we see this kind of long-term effect is in children who are physically abused or neglected,” said the lead author, William E. Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke.
Image: Bullied boy, via Shutterstock
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Monday, April 28th, 2014
A new study has found that family-based cognitive behavioral therapy has measurable effects on children as young as age 5 who are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), as Reuters reports:
The behavioral treatment, which involved parents heavily and is already known to work for older kids and teens, left almost three quarters of the young children significantly better off, according to objective measurements.
“I really think that the results highlight this family-based cognitive behavior therapy model as the first-line treatment for children with OCD,” Jennifer Freeman, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.
Freeman is affiliated with the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the Pediatric Anxiety Research Clinic at Rhode Island Hospital and the Intensive Program for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at Bradley Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
People with OCD have a set of compulsions – feeling compelled to do something – that cause them distress or disrupt their daily lives. For example, a person may have an intense fear that something bad will happen unless they perform a certain action multiple times.
The condition has been found to run in families, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), but its cause is still unclear.
About 2.2 million U.S. adults are affected by OCD, with approximately one-third of those having developed symptoms as children, according to NIH.
Considerable research has shown that CBT alone or in combination with anti-anxiety medicine is effective in treating OCD among older children and adolescents, Freeman and her colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry.
There was little evidence about what worked for younger children with OCD, however.
Image: Young family, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 17th, 2014
New research has found that moving to a new home can be mentally stressful, especially for adolescents. Reuters has more on the study, which compared military with civilian families who were moving:
To see whether these kids nonetheless show signs of difficulty with moving, the researchers looked at medical records for 6- to 17-year-old children of active duty members from the Military Health System Medical Data Repository between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2009.
Altogether, the records for 548,336 children were included in the analysis, and nearly 180,000 – about 25 percent – had moved to a new city or town at least once during the past year.
Researchers divided the children into two groups by age: 6 to 11 years old and 12 to 17. They looked at whether each child had had at least one healthcare visit – outpatient, emergency room or hospitalization – with a mental health diagnosis during fiscal year 2009.
The study team also collected additional data from the records about the children and parents, including psychiatric history, service branch, military rank, gender, race and age.
Finally, they calculated the odds of a child having a visit for mental health diagnoses including anxiety, self-injury, adjustment, developmental, personality and mood disorders.
The study found that compared to peers who had not moved, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had moved over the past year had 20 percent higher odds of visiting the emergency room for a psychiatric issue, along with 4 percent higher odds of an office visit and 19 percent greater odds of a psychiatric hospitalization. Children between the ages of six and 11 had about 3 percent higher odds of having an office visit for mental health reasons.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that adolescents in particular – even more than younger people – have a difficult time making adjustments,” said Christopher Bellonci, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
“The job of adolescents is to find a peer group and an identity outside of the home, and that is harder when your peer group and school are disrupted by a move when they should provide support and strength,” he told Reuters Health.
For families with an upcoming move, preparing kids and teens is key, said Bellonci, who was not involved in the study.
“Change is stressful, and parents should talk with their kids about the transition coming up,” Bellonci said.
If possible, parents should help kids brainstorm ways to make the new space -such as their bedroom – their own. Getting a chance to meet future teachers and peers can also help smooth the transition to a new city. For parents and kids alike, it’s all about fostering a new support system of friends and peers.
Image: Moving truck, via Shutterstock
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