Parents Predicts: The Big Issues for 2013

Pregnancy Risks and Sports Injuries

Pregnancy Health Risks

Over the past year we've heard a lot about potentially risky prenatal influences. Antidepressant use is a big one, because depression in women is common during the childbearing years. A controversial paper published last October in Human Reproduction came down on a common class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, because they may pose a heightened risk for pregnancy complications, preterm birth, and a number of neurobehavioral problems during infancy. Researchers also reported a link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism rates. Another study associated maternal flu during pregnancy with increased risk of autism, supporting the idea that pregnant women should receive flu shots (but not the nasal spray, which contains a live virus).

Let's be clear: These studies are important--but we need many more of them before we can generate solid recommendations for pregnant women. The research so far has been exploratory, and the actual level of risk has been pretty small, despite what headlines may lead you to believe. It's unfortunate that pregnant women are being asked weigh the blurry pros and cons of antidepressant use for both maternal and baby health without definitive guidelines. You can expect more data in the coming year on these topics as well as other prenatal exposures (such as mercury, which was recently associated with risk for ADHD)... and more debate and confusion.

Injuries: The Downside Of Physical Activity

While child development experts worry that young kids aren't active enough, older kids are at risk because of their involvement in sports and recreation activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the frequency of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries due to sports and recreation injuries have increased in kids by 60 percent over the last decade. The CDC estimates that over 4 million youth concussions are reported every year-and that's actually an underestimate, because many go unrecognized. The National Eye Institute (NEI) has brought attention to how severe and frequent sports-related eye injuries have become; many lead to temporary or permanent loss of sight. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued safety guidelines for cheerleading because of a distressing rise in the number of injuries-including catastrophic ones-due in part to the increasingly risky demands of this activity.

In the coming year, there'll be a lot more discussion about guidelines to keep active kids injury-free. The NEI is promoting protective eyewear in sports like baseball; the AAP suggests that cheerleading be considered-and regulated-as a sport rather than an activity in all 50 states. Meanwhile, preventing and recognizing concussions are complex issues, and experts will study how this impacts sports like football and soccer. And we'll also hear more about the dangers of recreational activities, such as the recent report that inflatable bouncers—just like trampolines—can cause a variety of injuries.

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