ADHD

11 December 2012

Oxygen deprivation in womb raises ADHD risk

Children who were deprived of oxygen in the womb or during birth are more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study says.

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Children who were deprived of oxygen in the womb or during birth are more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study says.

Kaiser Permanente researchers found oxygen deprivation may play a greater role in the prevalence of ADHD than other genetic or familial risk factors for the condition. They noted their findings could help doctors identify and treat children at greater risk for ADHD.

"Previous studies have found that hypoxic injury during foetal development leads to significant structural and functional brain injuries in the offspring. However, this study suggests that the adverse effect of hypoxia and ischaemia on prenatal brain development may lead to functional problems, including ADHD," study author Dr. Darios Getahun, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California department of research and evaluation, said in a news release. "Our findings could have important clinical implications. They could help physicians identify newborns at risk that could benefit from surveillance and early diagnosis, when treatment is more effective."

How the research was done

The researchers analysed the electronic health records of almost 82 000 children ranging in age from five to 11. They found that those who were oxygen deprived before birth had a 16% greater risk for developing ADHD, while oxygen deprivation during birth was associated with a 26% greater risk for the disorder.

The researchers added that neonatal respiratory distress syndrome was associated with a 47% greater risk, and children with exposure to preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) had a 34% higher risk for the condition.

The link between ADHD and oxygen deprivation was strongest in premature births. After taking gestational age and other risk factors into account, the study also revealed children whose deliveries were breech, transverse (shoulder-first) or involved cord complications had a 13% higher risk for ADHD.

The researchers noted the link between ADHD and oxygen deprivation applied to children of all races and ethnicities.

While the study showed an association between oxygen deprivation in the womb and ADHD, it did not prove cause-and-effect.

"We suggest future research to focus on pre- and post-natal conditions and the associations with adverse outcomes, such as ADHD," Getahun added.

In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the annual cost of ADHD-related illness in children could be as high as $52.4 billion. In 2010, 8.4 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD.

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on ADHD.


(Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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