Monday, April 07, 2008

Dad's influence on fetal health

As a relatively new aunt, I've been watching my sister go through the bewildering maze of do's and don'ts that faces pregnant women and new moms. While she was pregnant, it seemed mostly to be don'ts, actually: Don't eat soft cheeses. No caffeine. Don't eat fish--no, wait, do eat fish. Absolutely no alcohol, ever. Avoid pollution, chemicals, allergens--in fact, if you could just stop breathing for the next 9 months, that would be ideal.

But guess what? New research shows that it's not only mothers to be whose behavior and environmental exposures affect the baby's health. (And here is the million-dollar question: why should this be at all surprising?!)

This article in Science News (free access online 'til 4/15) describes new research that suggests that a father's age and exposure to chemicals can affect the health of his child in lasting ways. Older dads are more likely to father children with autism, Down syndrome, and schizophrenia; and their daughters face an increased risk of breast cancer. Younger dads are more likely to have low-birthweight babies. And men's exposure to chemicals (including from cigarette smoking) increases the risk of brain tumors in their offspring.


Bea said...

"And here is the million-dollar question: why should this be at all surprising?!"


Kelly Hills said...

When a friend of mine was pregnant, the running joke was "Don't do [X] - you'll kill the baby!"

Thankfully, Ash is now a precocious toddlercritter, and it wasn't a concern. But still - it really was pretty remarkable, all the do's and don'ts - and how different they are, country to country, culture to culture.