Using a phone while pregnant is unlikely to have any effects on your child's brain

For many years, there was a lot of concern over the effects that the persistent use of mobile phones might have on our health. The fear seems to have faded away somewhat in recent years, but longer-term research projects are still delivering results.

The latest is a study from researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which surveyed more than 45,000 mothers before, during and after pregnancy. Each mother was asked about her phone use, and neurodevelopmental follow-ups were done with the children at ages three and five.

The results are good news. "Our investigation revealed for the first time that maternal mobile phone use may actually have a positive impact," said Jan Alexander, senior author on a paper describing the research, published in the journal BMC Public Health. 

"More specifically, mobile phone use in pregnancy was associated with lower risk of the child having low language and motor skills at 3 years of age."

Beneficial effects

According to their results, children born to mobile phone users had a 27 percent lower risk of having lower sentence complexity, 14 percent lower risk of incomplete grammar and 31 percent lower risk of having moderate language delay at age 3, compared to children of mothers who reported no mobile phone use. On top of this, they also found that kids born to mobile phone users had an 18 percent lower risk of low motor skills at age 3.

Alexander cautioned, however, that expecting mothers probably shouldn't rush out to buy a new phone. "Although we adjusted for important socio-demographic characteristics as well as maternal personality and psychological factors, we think this protective effect is more likely to be explained by factors not measured in this study having an impact on the mobile phone use and child's neurodevelopment, rather than the maternal mobile phone use in itself."

Lower risk

The most important finding, he says, was that there's no evidence in the study that using a phone while pregnant harms your child. 

"Our large study provides evidence that pregnant women's use of cell phone is not associated with risk of harming neurodevelopment of the fetus," said Alexander.

"The beneficial effects we report should be interpreted with caution due to the limitations common in observational studies, but our findings should at least alleviate any concern mothers have about using their mobile phone while pregnant."

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.