Like most expectant mothers, Nichole Ward tries to avoid anything that might harm her unborn daughter.
“Well you definitely hear of alcohol all the time … the smoking,” Ward said.
But she is also focused on limiting her cell phone use. She became aware of new research that indicates too much exposure could lead to a hyperactive child.
“If I was wearing a sweatshirt, I would put my cell phone in my pocket in the front,” Ward said. “I don't do that anymore. I don't really keep it on me unless I need to have it on me.”
Within the past year, researchers at Yale University released the results of a study involving lab mice. They said the mice that were exposed to cell phone radiation in utero grew to be more hyperactive and have less memory function.
A few years ago, Danish researchers interviewed thousands of mothers about their cell phone use during and after pregnancy. They found a correlation between behavioral problems and the amount of cell phone exposure.
But are these studies a cause for serious concern? Should pregnant women begin to treat a cell phone the same they would a glass of vodka or a lit cigarette?
Dr. Robert delRosario of Partners in Women's Healthcare delivers more than 100 babies a year. He has never made it a point to warn pregnant patients about cell phones.
“I think we forget how much we can actually use an old-fashioned conventional rotary phone where you can limit it,” Dr. delRosario said. “But right now I would tell them it's safe.”
In fact, Dr. DelRosario said cell phones would not make his top 10 list of concerns.
“Ask me in a few years or ask me next year. You never know what could come out from a different facility,” he said. “It's a need for ongoing concern and ongoing research, but don't panic.”
At Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Joshua Muscat has studied the effects of cell phones for years. He's mostly focused on their possible link to cranial tumors. He agrees with Dr. DelRosario that women should not panic.
“At this point I certainly don't think the available scientific evidence indicates that there's a need for…a warning label on cell phones for pregnant women,” Dr. Muscat said.
That being said, Dr. Muscat said every patient should make up their own mind.
“There's always going to be concerns about the use of cell phones, so if you think it's something that could potentially cause a problem, minimize your exposure. Use them less. Use a Bluetooth. Use a wireless piece,” he said.
Ward has tried to make changes, but like so many women, her cell phone is her only phone. She doesn't own a landline.
“You try to do anything to prevent any type of health issue while being pregnant, but then at the same time … you need it,” Ward said.