Exposure to Mold in Pregnancy: Does It Affect The Baby?
Doc, could mold infection cause spasticity in my 7 weeks old infant? I was exposed to black mold during pregnancy. I moved out in the 7 month, and have been concerned ever since.
My son was born by C-section at the gestational age of 39 weeks. His weight at birth was 3 kg (6 lbs 10 ounces), and now at the age of 7 weeks he weighs 3.85 kg (8.5 lbs).
He seems to be quite spastic at times. He clenches his fists and jerks his arms on and off, while the legs go into spasm. Each episode lasts for 10 sec or so. I can stop the attacks by putting my hand around him. But the attacks are frequent, particularly while falling asleep, and when hungry. Yet he eats well, and has gained 850 grams (almost 2 lbs.) since birth.
While feeding, he practically jumps off my breast, spreads his arms and cries inconsolably. The jerking movements are strong, which make the entire activity look like exaggerated startle reflex with the breast held in the corner of his mouth. These repeated outbursts occur especially when he is trying to fall asleep. To add to it all, he also gets stridor because of mild laryngomalacia.
My son’s periodic strong hand grips, abnormal jerking of the arms, and spasms of the legs are of great concern to me.
Doctor please advise.
The Expert, Ren Chats AnswersExposure to mold in pregnancy: Does it affect the baby?
It is generally agreed that molds, the filamentous fungi, are injurious to health, and exposure to them is common. There are molds outdoors and indoors. They are in almost every other building. Prolonged exposure to of any type of mold (fungus) could be potential health hazard, but to the mother first. Mother shields her unborn baby from the outside world. No amount of offending mold in the atmosphere can touch the baby in the womb without crossing the barriers laid down by the body of the mother.
Some studies on pregnant mice have shown that Stachybotrys Chartarum, commonly known as black mold, can affect the fetus without any evidence of its effect on the mother, which till date have no relevance to human inhalational exposure. A number of mycotoxins, toxic substances produced by a fungus, affect pregnancy in experimental animals; but none of the observations are applicable to humans. Nevertheless, it is this that is refered to while justifing their point “exposure to mold during pregnancy could harm the growth and development of the fetus“. In humans the link between inhalation of black molds and pregnancy loss has not been proved.
Nor does it stand to reason that an unborn baby could be directly exposed to molds, their spores, or their toxins. There are many threats to fetal development. Disturbed mental health of the father, depression during pregnancy, alcohol indulgence
or excessive coffee intake by expectant mother
– all can jeopardise baby’s wellbeing. Besides, home environment contains a wide range of other pollutants like bacteria, tobacco smoke,
dust mites, gases emitted from food, liquids and chemicals used in common household, and so on. At this stage let me point out that your baby was neither born premature, nor has he suffered intrauterine growth retardation. Not only was his birth weight within the normal limits, his weight gain over 7 weeks after the birth is also good. .Could exposure to mold during pregnancy have affected baby’s brain?
Despite frequent reports in media about toxic molds (Aspergillus, Stachybotrys and Cladosporium), no evidence of neurological compromise has been noted due to indoor mold exposure. .
Irrespective of individual perception of sickness, it is the skin, air-passage, lungs, stomach and intestines that are affected.
None of the documented cases validate any noteworthy neurological consequences secondary to mold infection; not even in those who had strickingly heavy exposure to the offending fungus, and certainly not in a baby who neither came in direct contact, nor did his mother suffer any health issues attributed to exposure to black mold during pregnancy.Should I Not be concerned about exposure to mold?
Your concern is understandable. The ill effects of black mold have been very much in news. Then why would you not be anxious? You, who was exposed to mold during pregnancy, and the baby born suffers from seizure like jerky movements. But the potential ill effects of indoor black mold exposure, particularly to Stachybotrys species, are not well-substantiated in the scientific studies.
Moreover, inhalation of these harmful spores is possible only when the dried cluster of mold is disturbed, and their spores are thus released in the air. During the active growing phase, the fungus is covered by a slimy film, which holds the spores together, and prevents them from polluting the indoor air. Therefore, finding active indoor black mold growth does not necessarily mean that the building occupants have been exposed to it.What is the cause of the jerky movements?
So, what concerns us most at this stage are the abnormal seizure like movements in your 7 weeks old baby boy. To be able to precisely comment on this, many gaps in the clinical information provided need to be filled, like what was the cause of birth by C-section, what age these movements started, are they getting progressively worse or better, and so on.
Abnormal seizure like movements are however common during early infancy. Many of them are innocent developmental issues, which resolve as the baby matures, while others are signs of underlying disorder in the nervous system. My book, “ Jittery Baby & The Mimics of Fits in Infancy“ is shortly due. Till then it would be best to go through the causes of neonatal seizures here.Stridor because of mild laryngomalacia
Though laryngomalacia, meaning soft larynx, is the most common cause of stridor in infancy, in your son’s case it could be part of of generalized dystonia; periodic tightening of muscles, which result in spasms,
and abnormal posture. The symptoms are almost identical in both, vocal cord dysfunction and laryngomalacia - an inborn immature soft cartilage of the larynx. Determinimg the cause would not only help in the diagnosing the disorder your son is suffering from, but will also throw light on specific management of the case.What should you do?
Consult a pediatric neurologist, and trust the advice. Regular follow-ups are usually recommended to track baby‘s development. Hope this helps!
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With Best Wishes.Refrences:
1. The role of fungal proteinases in pathophysiology of Stachybotrys chartarum: Yike I, Rand T, Dearborn DG; Mycopathologia. 2007 Oct;164(4):171-81. PMID: 17610048
2. D. M. Kuhn and M. A. Ghannoum; Indoor Mold, Toxigenic Fungi, and Stachybotrys chartarum: Infectious Disease Perspective. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, Jan. 2003, p. 144–172
3. J. W. Bennett and M. Klich, Mycotoxins Clin. Microbiol. Rev. July 2003 vol. 16 no. 3, p. 497–516