Research Study Shows Traumatic Brain Injury In Pregnant Mothers May Affect Unborn Baby’s Development

Impacts on Baby’s Brain Development Could Lead to Depression, Anxiety, and Impaired Immune Response

The results of a new research study conducted at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, in collaboration with the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, prove that when a pregnant woman suffers from a head injury (TBI), her unborn baby is also injured. . Pregnant women are at risk for head trauma from falls and motor vehicle collisions, as well as domestic violence (IPV).

Jonathan Lifshitz, PhD

The study led by Jonathan Lifshitz, PhD, professor of child health at UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, found multiple sources of evidence to support that a mother’s TBI interrupts unborn baby’s brain development, similar to the effects harmful effects of alcohol, drugs, Zika and German measles during pregnancy. Gravida TBI (gravida is the medical term for pregnancy) alters the development of the baby’s brain and later the offspring show signs of depression, anxiety, and an impaired immune response. Among the results of the study, male offspring showed that more outcome measures were affected after childbirth.

“We are really concerned that the effects of brain damage in a pregnant person could spread into the bloodstream and disrupt the development of the unborn child. This study shows that gravida TBI in mothers may have transgenerational effects on children, where more research can determine how pregnancy trimester, genetics and environmental conditions affect risk, ”said Dr. Lifshitz.

For women, TBI and IPV are closely related and generally have a domino impact on health for them, and now for their unborn children. Sixty to 90 percent of women who experience IPV assault also experience TBI. When intimate partner violence becomes physical, the attack is usually directed to the head, neck, and face, causing a TBI or concussion. Women experience IPV and TBI regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background or culture, and the root cause of these injuries is not reported to health care providers. Additionally, IPV is the leading cause of death in women of childbearing age, and when women are pregnant, it dramatically increases the risk and severity of IPV. A Retrospective study at the Barrow Neurological Institute and 2010 Summary Report of the National Survey on Intimate Partners and Sexual Violence (NISVS) indicates that one in three women will experience some form of IPV in her lifetime, but only 21% of victims will seek medical treatment for physical assault.

“Specifically, our research focused on mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, and the effects of TBI gravida were more prevalent in our male offspring than in female offspring. As we complete more research, TBI gravida may explain problems with neurodevelopment and possibly gender or sex-related trends in mental health disorders. The social impact of our research stems from the fact that a large portion of people are exposed to intimate partner violence – physical assault by a known abuser on another person. What’s even worse is that intimate partner violence increases in intensity and frequency when a partner is pregnant, ”said Dr Lifshitz.

The research study also suggests that these children should be monitored closely by their health care providers due to potential neurodevelopmental issues. For example, if and when a pregnant woman presents to a hospital emergency room or during antenatal visits, providers should fully document a suspected TBI due to IPV in the medical record. This important step triggers a more in-depth medical assessment and initiates the follow-up and follow-up care of the child.

Gravida TBI is an unknown disease in medicine as the systems span obstetrics, neurology, pediatrics and beyond. Recognition by health care providers and introduction into the curriculum of medical schools could raise awareness of this problem as a serious and permanent illness.

“We are currently focused on understanding the extent to which the effects of TBI gravida are present in babies and children. These findings will help researchers and healthcare providers design societal and medical treatments to support children who have been exposed to TBI gravida during fetal development, ”said P. David Adelson, MD, co-author of the study, chief of pediatric neurosurgery, professor of child health and director of the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The Research study was published online August 12, 2021, in the peer-reviewed journal Journal of Neurotrauma, the official journal of the National Society of Neurotraumatology. The models were studied in the laboratory to generate control and non-control conditions, and the development of their mixed offspring was measured. During the study, the offspring were observed for 10 weeks (75 days), which is equivalent to a young adult.

This research was conducted as part of the Translational Neurotrauma Research Program, which was established in 2012 as a partnership between the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and the Phoenix VA Health Care System.


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Paul N. Strickland