Toward Improved Vision for Pregnancy and Maternal Well-Being Outcomes: A Better Future for Mothers. “The alarming high levels of maternal mortality and morbidity (MMM) present in the United States constitute a significant public health challenge, yet much of this death can be prevented if attention is focused on the most vulnerable groups.”
Paul Bates, PhD, MPH, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and his colleagues have published a study in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, examining the impact of prenatal and early postpartum care on newborns’ development. Specifically, they were concerned with the long-term effects of “prenatal screening” on the child’s eye health. Their focus was on the impact on babies who have at least one parent who has had regular prenatal care and who are being followed up in the early years after birth.
Of note, the researchers found that children with mothers who had a history of vision problems, diabetes, heart disease or lung cancer had significantly lower chances of achieving their full vision development compared to children with parents with no history of any of those conditions. Babies who were born to mothers with no histories of vision problems or conditions that have been related to these issues had a higher chance of developing low vision and impaired vision later in life. Also, those who were born to mothers with high risks for premature birth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had a lower chance of achieving a normal eye growth and development.
The researchers also noted that there was a negative effect on the vision development of children whose parents smoked, drank or had an unhealthy diet. This may be because the chemicals and toxins that are commonly associated with these substances interfere with the normal function of the immune system, which in turn affects the eyes. These babies are also at a greater risk of developing eye diseases later in life, as well as having an increased chance of contracting infections. When a mother smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol, she increases her child’s risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma and other eye disorders.
Good health habits and good vision practice are also important to the baby’s development. Babies born to mothers with good habits and good vision development are less likely to develop vision problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, as well as cataracts and other serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy. These babies also have better chances of developing healthy diets and being able to concentrate for longer periods of time and maintain a healthy weight and proper growth.
Healthy newborns are also more likely to survive childbirth. These include babies who are born to mothers who have normal blood pressure, healthy gums and healthy lungs and who are not at risk for preeclampsia and other complications during pregnancy.
Studies about newborns’ development have shown that premature delivery and low birth weights are directly related to these conditions. It is very important that babies are delivered before these risks are experienced to avoid having long term and potentially life threatening consequences. And these babies are also at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential, especially in terms of eye and hearing development. Babies who have a history of vision problems are also at risk of developing certain eye and hearing disorders later in life.
Babies with no history of these health conditions and no documented history of vision problems are at a higher risk of developing future eye care complications, like cataract formation, anemia and other eye conditions, and even glaucoma and even macular degeneration, which are the progressive disease of the central retina of the eye. If you are planning to get pregnant and already have health concerns, it is important that you consider the many positive benefits of getting your newborn checked by an optometrist, as these babies can benefit from early screenings and treatments for vision and eye conditions.