Last week the New York Times printed good news about a worrisome issue in childhood development. As it turns out, children whose mothers used cocaine during pregnancy have only slightly lower IQ scores than children whose mothers didn’t use. The difference between the children’s scores was so low it was deemed “scientifically insignificant.” In fact, the effect of alcohol on the fetus is more detrimental than cocaine’s, while tobacco’s is about the same.
But potential parents have some other science to consider this week. In the latest issue of Human Reproduction scientists found that women with higher levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs, or the chemicals that make products “non-stick”) in their blood had more trouble getting pregnant. Women with higher levels of the two main chemicals—PFOA and PFOS—were up to 154 percent more likely to be infertile. Exposure is a particular problem for developed countries like the US, where eight percent of women of childbearing age have consulted a doctor about infertility. And, like we’ve said before, Teflon is forever.Also this month, the February issue of Scientific American notes that while the risks and difficulties for mothers over 40 and their babies have long been studied, journalist Paul Raeburn points out that babies born to men over 40 are six times more likely to have autism and twice as likely to have schizophrenia than babies whose fathers are under 30. For fathers age 50 and older, the risk of having an autistic child increases to nine times the rate of fathers under 30.
In other words, “A 40-year-old man’s risk of having a child with schizophrenia is the same as a 40-year-old woman’s risk of having a child with Down syndrome,” says Raeburn. Looks like it’s time to stop pinning women with the blame for a baby’s health.