ADHD: Oxygen Deprivation Before Birth May Contribute – ADHD Center – Everyday Health

MONDAY, Dec. 10, 2012 — Events in pregnancy may be bigger contributors to the occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in life than genetics, according to a new Kaiser Permanente study.

Researchers examined the electronic health records of about 82,000 children and found that those who experienced oxygen deprivation in utero were significantly more likely to develop ADHD than children who had not been exposed, according to a release. Overall, prenatal exposure to low oxygen conditions — like birth asphyxia and neonatal respiratory distress syndrome — was associated with a 16 percent greater risk of developing ADHD.

The specific low-oxygen conditions (also called ischemic-hypoxic conditions) were found to be associated with different levels of risk:

  • birth asphyxia — 26 percent greater risk of developing ADHD
  • neonatal respiratory distress syndrome —  47 percent greater risk
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy —  34 percent greater risk.

Race didn’t change the children's outcomes in any of the studies.

Researchers also found that the association between low-oxygen conditions and ADHD was strongest in preterm births, and that deliveries that were breech or shoulder-first or had cord complications were associated with a 13 percent increased risk of ADHD.

"Our findings could have important clinical implications. They could help physicians identify newborns at risk that could benefit from surveillance and early diagnosis, when treatment is more effective," said study author Darios Getahun, MD, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in a release. "We suggest future research to focus on pre- and post-natal conditions and the associations with adverse outcomes, such as ADHD."

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Symptoms and Treatment of ADHD

In 2010, about 8.4 percent of children ages 3 to 17 were diagnosed with ADHD, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says the condition continues into adulthood for about half of the affected children.

Symptoms of ADHD in children may include attention problems, hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, disorganization, and persistent forgetfulness.If your child displays these behaviors, talk to your pediatrician.

In terms of ADHD treatment, more than half of the children diagnosed with ADHD receive some kind of prescription medication. Experts say the combination of behavioral intervention and prescription medication is the best form of ADHD treatment; there are also alternative and complementary therapies for ADHD such as meditative activities, exercise, and herbs and supplements.

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