We live in a world that places great value on technology and a time in which human life is being radically shaped by it. Many people spend large portions of their daily lives plugged into television screens, smart phones, tablets and computers. With the rapid evolution of mobile and wireless technology, we’ve become increasingly dependent on screens, computers and their capabilities.
So what is the answer with wifi and pregnancy, does wifi affect your baby? This is a question many expecting mothers ponder as they set up the nursery and make important decisions to give their baby the best start in life.
A 2014 study into screen time found that adults in the US were spending an average of over seven hours each day in front of a screen. In the UK and Australia, this figure wasn’t much better with the average adult spending over six hours on screen time.
It could be argued that technology is valued above many other things. How many couples do you see in restaurants staring at their phones instead of engaging in conversation? And how many parents can honestly say they don’t feel even a slightest twinge of guilt about the amount of time they spend on their smartphones when the kids are about?
We’re technically more connected with more people in more places on the planet than we’ve ever been, but are we more disconnected with those closest to us.
Wi-Fi is commonplace homes, schools, libraries, shopping centres, restaurants and most public places globally. Many of us now take for this granted, without giving the implications of this change in our lives real consideration.
But what about the potential impacts of Wi-Fi on developing babies and children?
What is Wifi and how does it work?
Wifi uses radio frequency electromagnetic fields to wirelessly connect electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers to the Internet. The Wifi signals are transmitted from a wireless router or modem, which is connected to an Internet service provider, which your device then connects to.
How Does Wifi Work?
The router or modem converts the wired Internet connection into a wireless radio signal that is broadcast from its antennas. Your electronic devices detect this signal and can connect to the network by using encryption keys to access the Internet connection. The radio frequency used by most Wifi networks is in the microwave range of 2.4 to 5 gigahertz.
Does Wi-Fi Affect Your Baby or Unborn Child?
Research shows WiFi signals are unlikely to harm your baby during pregnancy. Even though studies found no conclusive evidence that exposure to WiFi radiation could impact fetal development or increases miscarriage risk.
However, one question we should be asking ourselves, however, is how Wi-Fi could impact on our children. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure found that children are more at risk from microwave radiation. Children have more absorbent brain tissue, and thinner skulls, leaving them more susceptible to microwave radiation than adults.
The microwave radiation from wireless devices is currently classed as a Class 2B potential carcinogen. Lead and the pesticide DDT are also classified as Class 2B. The time lapse between first exposure and potential tumour development can be decades, and so it is not yet known what effect the prevalence of Wi-Fi in society could be having on children’s brains.
Sadly, as Wi-Fi becomes more commonplace in our society, so too do toys that make use of this technology. From children’s tablets, to computer gaming hardware, many children now own toys that rely on Wi-Fi technology. Until more is known about the safety of Wi-Fi, these toys should be carefully regulated by governments but sadly often aren’t.
France has recently banned the use of Wi-Fi technology in nurseries and preschools that care for children aged three years and under. The law also dictates that Wi-Fi technology in elementary schools should be switched off when not in use.
Exposure to Wifi and Pregnancy
Some researcher also found that fetuses are at an even higher risk to the effect of microwave radiation. These findings were based on a small number of animal studies performed in laboratories. The study authors concluded that pregnant women should avoid carrying their smartphones in their clothing near their baby.
What The Experts Say And Criticisms Of The Research
Studies have concluded that children are more at risk of microwave radiation absorption, but it is not yet known what effect this will have. The radio signals transmitted by Wi-Fi devices are very low. Many scientists currently believe that Wi-Fi exposure is safe.
The World Health Organisation has this to say on the use of Wi-Fi technology, “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes “no evidence that exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, such as those generated by wifi, causes harm to a pregnant woman or her fetus.”
While more research is still needed, following normal safety precautions like keeping WiFi routers away from the abdomen and limiting screen time seem reasonable for expectant mothers wanting extra peace of mind. One of the main criticisms of the research study is that there simply isn’t enough data available. What we know about the effect Wi-Fi can have on children’s brains remains fairly limited, and more research is needed before definite conclusions can be made.
Part of the problem lies in the way Wifi technology is used. Tablets are laptops should be kept at least 20cm away from the body during use, and yet many people fail to follow this recommendation.
Should You Limit WiFi Use After Your Baby Is Born?
While the jury is still out on this, some experts recommend minimizing exposure when possible to young brains. According to several studies, WiFi signals may disrupt a developing fetus or infant’s sleep cycles and brain development. Newborns have thinner skulls and higher brain wave activity, making them more susceptible to RF radiation. Reducing screen time and turning the router off at night are two easy ways to decrease your baby’s exposure.
When video chatting with loved ones, use the speaker view and keep the device away from your baby. While occasional use of monitors and tablets likely poses little risk, prolonged or close-range exposure may be problematic. Trust your instincts – if limiting WiFi gives you peace of mind, by all means make changes. Every baby is different, so find what works for your family.
What are the effects of wifi exposure on your baby?
WiFi exposure during pregnancy may have some effect on an unborn baby. According to studies, the radiation from devices like laptops, tablets, and phones could potentially harm fetuses, especially during the early stages of pregnancy when an embryo is developing rapidly. EMF radiation can penetrate the womb, and the developing body tissues of a fetus are particularly vulnerable to outside influences.
While there is no conclusive evidence that WiFi radiation causes damage, as a precaution, pregnant women may want to limit exposure when possible. Some recommendations include:
- Turning off the WiFi router at night or when not in use.
- Limiting screen time and streaming.
- Keeping phones and other devices away from the abdomen.
- Using headphones or the speaker option instead of holding the phone up to the ear.
- Sitting away from WiFi routers, modems and other EMF-emitting devices.
Though more research is still needed, following best practices for reducing radiation exposure during pregnancy can help expectant mothers feel more at ease. The risk seems small, but for some women, taking extra precautions for peace of mind is worth it.
What are the signs of wifi exposure?
Signs of potential wifi exposure during pregnancy can include physical symptoms as well as changes in your baby’s development or behavior. Some common signs to watch out for include:
- Headaches, dizziness or nausea. Feeling ill when using wifi-enabled devices or in areas with strong wifi signals could indicate sensitivity.
- Sleep disturbances or fatigue. Too much EMF exposure is linked to insomnia, tiredness and impaired sleep quality. If you’re sleeping near wifi routers or other electronics, it may help to move them further away.
- Issues with memory or concentration. Excessive wifi use or exposure during pregnancy has been associated with problems retaining information or staying focused. Limit screen time and take regular tech breaks.
- Irritability or hyperactivity in your baby. Some research points to a possible link between prenatal EMF exposure and behavioral issues in children. Pay attention to your baby’s tolerance for stimulation and reactions to wifi devices.
While more research is still needed, following some best practices for technology use and wifi safety during pregnancy and for your new baby is a good precautionary measure. When in doubt, turn it off and unwind – your health and your baby will thank you.
What Parents Can Do?
Those parents concerned about the effects of wifi on their baby during and after pregnancy can take some practical steps to limit exposure. They can turn the wifi router off at night or when not in use. This cuts down on the amount of radiation distributed in the home, especially in bedrooms and nurseries. Using an ethernet cable to connect laptops and other devices is another easy way reduce wifi usage.
Dr Erica Mallory Blythe is a leading radiation researcher who believes parents should take steps to protect their children from potentially harmful Wi-Fi.
She advises parents to take the following action:
- Replace Wi-Fi technology in the home with wired internet.
- Use aeroplane mode on your smartphone before giving this to a child. This allows your child to play on a laptop or tablet without being exposed to microwave radiation.
- Speak to your child’s school about replacing Wi-Fi technology with wired internet, or switching off Wi-Fi transmitters when not in use.
Technology moves much faster than politics, and this could be part of the problem. Many governments are failing to update their guidelines and restrictions on Wi-Fi exposure, and at the same time Wi-Fi is becoming more common within our daily lives.
So should pregnant women be worried about wifi exposure?
The research is mixed, but erring on the side of caution seems wise for concerned parents. Limiting screen time and wifi use when possible is an easy step to take for peace of mind during pregnancy and after the baby arrives.
While the risks seem to still be unclear, reducing any potential harm to a developing fetus or newborn is worth the effort. Pregnant women have enough to worry about, so taking wifi exposure off the list by making some simple changes. Turn the wifi off at night, limit streaming and web surfing, and enjoy the quiet moments. Nine months will pass in the blink of an eye, so take the opportunity to unwind and unplug. Your body and your baby will thank you.
To find out more about the affects of Screen time, you can read BellyBelly’s article: