Children born as a result of unplanned pregnancies are not at an increased risk for mental deficits, a new study finds.
Children in the study born after an unplanned pregnancy had a more limited vocabulary and poorer nonverbal abilities than those of planned pregnancies. However, these differences nearly disappeared when the researchers took into account the income level of each child's family, the researchers said.
In other words, social inequalities, not a lack of pregnancy planning , were responsible for the child's slower development, the researchers said.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, was published online today in the British Medical Journal.
In the U.K., as many as 30 to 40 percent of children are the result of unplanned pregnancies, the researchers said.
Unplanned pregnancies are known to have poorer health outcomes for babies, but there has been little research to assess whether child development is associated with pregnancy planning.
The researchers set out to investigate how factors such as pregnancy planning, the time it took to conceive and infertility treatment influence a child's cognitive development at three and five years old.
They analyzed data from approximately 12,000 children from a large U.K. study of families and infants born from 2000 to 2002. Parents who took part were interviewed when their child was nine months old, and then revisited when the child was three and five years old.
Mothers reported whether the pregnancy was planned, their feelings when first pregnant, time to conception and details of any infertility treatment .
Each child's verbal, nonverbal and spatial abilities were tested at ages three and five.
Initial analyses showed children born after an unplanned pregnancy were four to five months behind planned children in verbal abilities, while children born after assisted reproduction were three to four months ahead.
But these differences were almost entirely explained by the child's economic circumstances.
“Children born after mistimed or unplanned pregnancies might have access to fewer educational resources (such as books, puzzles, trips to library), which could mediate the association between pregnancy intention and cognitive outcome,” the researchers wrote.
“To help children achieve their full potential, policymakers should continue to target social inequalities,” the researchers said.
Pass it on: Children from unplanned pregnancies do not have problems developing verbal and spatial skills.
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