Thursday 9 April 2015

Disasters and the unborn

Some extraordinary facts are emerging about the effects disasters seem to have on babies still in their mothers' wombs. Americans being carried by their mothers at the time of the great flu pandemic of 1918 (pictured) would, 50 years later, have done worse at school, be earning less, and be more likely to be disabled than those who just missed it.

Babies born to Dutch women who went through the 'hunger winter' of 1944-45, when the German occupiers cut off food supplies, were more prone in adulthood to obesity, heart disease, schizophrenia and depression.

Swedes born in the months after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, when radiation-contaminated dust spread across parts of the country were 40% more likely to fail in middle school, even though their physical health did not seem be be affected.

A study in Sweden also found that the children of women who had lost a relative during pregnancy were more likely to suffer attention deficit disorder, anxiety or depression, while another looking at Bangladeshi and Pakistani families in England found that children whose first trimester in the womb coincided with Ramadan, the time of fasting, lagged behind at school when they were seven.

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