In Utero Oxygen Deprivation Linked to ADHD

Babies who experience oxygen deprivation in utero--due to conditions including birth asphyxia, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome and preeclampsia--are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood, a new study has found. ADHD affects an estimated 8.4 percent of American children between ages 3 and 7, the Centers for Disease Control says.

"Dr. Darios Getahun, lead author of the study, said that although there may not be any interventions aside from monitoring a mother and her child through pregnancy, knowing these factors can better assist physicians in tracking and diagnosing ADHD in children.

Getahun, who works with the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation, added, "The study leads us to suggest that those children that are exposed, they are at risk. And it's important to closely monitor these children as early diagnosis and treatment is most important."

When looking at specific factors, children who had exposure to neonatal respiratory distress syndrome had a 47% greater risk of developing ADHD, followed by children whose mothers had preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, with a 34% greater risk. Children who had been exposed to birth asphyxia - when a baby doesn't receive enough oxygen at birth - carried a 26% greater risk of developing ADHD.

Researchers also found that the risk of ADHD was increased if the risk factors were present and the birth was preterm.

However, Getahun and researchers were quick to also note that the percentage of ADHD cases attributed to ischemic-hypoxic conditions is small – just about 3% - and said that rather on focusing on preventing such conditions, these factors were a tool."

Image: Blood pressure cuff, via Shutterstock

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