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Offspring of Mothers Injected with Steroids May Develop Mental Health Problems Later on

Filed November 26th, 2013 Laurie

Children born to mothers who were injected with steroids during pregnancy to prevent premature birth have an increased risk of mental illness later on, according to a new study.

Mothers at risk of giving birth prematurely are routinely injected with glucocorticoids, which mimic cortisol, a natural hormone. The glucocorticoids are intended to help the baby’s lungs mature, according to PsychCentral.com.

Researchers previously established a link between stress during pregnancy and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Cortisol is produced in response to stress, and the researchers of this latest study wrote that cortisol could be responsible for this link, PsychCentral,com reported.

For the latest study, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Oulu in Finland studied 37 children who were exposed to synthetic glucocorticoids before birth and compared them to 185 children who were born at the same gestational age, but did not have glucocorticoid treatment. The scientists also examined a larger comparison group of 6,079 children matched on pregnancy and infant characteristics, according to PsychCentral.com.

The researchers found that children who had been exposed to synthetic glucocorticoids had lower general mental health scores at ages 8 and 16 and were more likely to show symptoms of ADHD, PsychCentral.com reported.

The results of the study also suggest that glucocorticoid treatments during pregnancy could increase children’s long-term risk for mental health problems, according to Alina Rodriguez, Ph.D., senior author of the study and a Visiting Professor at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

“There are a lot of studies that have found links between stress in pregnancy and effects on children’s mental health, especially ADHD, and this might be related to cortisol,” Rodriguez told PsychCentral.com.

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