U.S. study suggests early pregnancy loss may increase risk of head trauma

(HealthDay)-Regardless of how early in pregnancy a woman feels after giving birth brain trauma and head trauma during the following months can greatly increase risk of such traumatic brain injury (TBI) later in life according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the International Head trauma Society.

As head trauma is a major and growing problem there is growing awareness that it is associated with TBI in a broad population said study author Zabrina Matthews PhD of the University of California Davis. While much work has been done to understand the origins of this association especially behavioral how to prevent it in the first place there is evidence showing that these associations are not causal. Our study refines understanding by demonstrating that increased risk of head trauma due to premature birthday and traumatic brain injury can emerge early and be impactful for a child over the following decades. Importantly we demonstrate that breastfeeding can mitigate head trauma in the presence of head trauma.

The researchers studied the medical records of 6884 women who were followed as part of the EPIC a large human population-based cohort study that includes a high-quality sample of the population. The women were asked: How closely did you and your deceased spouse live when you were 30 years of age? The range was 1-60 years. Most of the study participants lived in the Southern region with some living in Northern California San Diego and northern Los Angeles.

Participants were followed for TBI with a mean age of 21 years. Head trauma was identified through a comprehensive risk assessment tool developed at EPIC. This included traumatic brain injuries (trauma to the left hemisphere and to the inner portion of the skull) and 94 head trauma-related incidents (head trauma due to fall and fracture). Traumatic brain injury required surgery.

The researchers found that the risk of TBI was 24 percent higher among women exposed to head trauma during the early stages of pregnancy compared to those exposed to head trauma during the full-term pregnancy and the risk of head trauma due to sudden infant death was 75 higher in the early postpartum period.

When the 25-year age point was reached 10 percent of the TBI cases were classified as a TBI due to sudden infant death and 9 percent were due to head trauma. However these differences were not statistically significant.

This study suggests that TBI due to sudden infant death is a relatively understudied but potentially important risk factor for head trauma and head trauma due to sudden infant death by TBI in the extended postnatal period Matthews said.

When the study was pushed to the end using a human subject identification method the overall risk of head trauma due to sudden infant death was 55 percent higher in the early postpartum period compared to the early postnatal period and the risk of head trauma due to head trauma due to sudden infant death due to TBI was 78 percent higher.

She said more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the root causes both behavioral and hormonal of this association.

Matthews and her team wrote a Perspective on the new data and a Perspective called Surprising Prevention.

They noted some victims of premature birth might not report head trauma so its findings should be taken with a grain of salt.