Can Traumatic Brain Injuries in pregnant women have an impact on the development of the fetus?

About Jonathan Lifshitz, Ph.D latest research into traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and how they can affect an unborn child’s development, he was interviewed and it was discovered that the effect is high.

pregnant woman holding stomach

According to him, domestic violence between intimate partners increases when one partner is pregnant, which is a terrible fact. The assaults, without a doubt, cause direct injury to the partner, as we have seen with sportsmen and soldiers.

However, the same pathophysiological mechanisms that cause brain injury — inflammation, stress, and worry – could harm an unborn kid. The impacts can cause neurological impairment throughout important phases of development, such as brain growth in our instance.

When our community partners told us about these real-life instances, it was clear that we needed to know if a pregnant mother’s brain injury could affect her unborn child. We did the research as outlined in order to provide research evidence for a human condition.

Numerous studies have shown that a variety of factors can influence the brain development of an unborn infant. What are some of these elements, and how do they affect the development of the brain?

Development is outside my field of expertise as a neuroscientist with a focus on traumatic brain injury. We all know that alcohol, coffee, illegal substances, poor nutrition, and a variety of other variables can affect pregnancy and fetal development. Stress and inflammation, according to research, cause a slew of early-life and late-life repercussions that can be classified as social determinants of health.

Environmental exposure throughout development — in this case, we’re talking about the fetus and uterus being exposed to specific conditions – can affect the way the brain is connected, its responses to specific stimuli, and hence an individual’s general function. Given how numerous processes interact over time to allow the brain to develop, it’s difficult to pinpoint how a single element may be solely accountable for the outcome.

As a result, the current study is the first to investigate the possibility that a single brain damage can impair embryonic development.

How are pregnant women at risk for Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Pregnant women face the same dangers as any other civilian when it comes to TBI: motor vehicle collisions, recreational activities, and daily activities. Pregnant women may be at a higher risk of falling due to their changing bodies. However, for the sake of this study, we will concentrate on the evidence relating to intimate relationship violence.

When domestic violence between intimate partners becomes physical, assaults on the head, neck, and face are more common. As a result, the risk of a TBI is significant.

Then, when one of the partners becomes pregnant, the likelihood and intensity of abuse increases. As a result, pregnant women are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence assaults and the resulting Traumatic Brain Injuries.

According to studies, 60-90 percent of women who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) will also have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Why is this, and why does the risk of contracting IPV rise when one couple is expecting a child?

It’s always the most difficult to respond to a “why” question. The information and data in the question are on intimate partner violence epidemiology and demography. According to the study, 60-90 percent of women who claim DV/IPV also have neurological symptoms similar to TBI. Unrelenting headaches, impaired vision, balance issues, difficulty concentrating, emotional volatility, and other symptoms are reported by these people. And the fact that these ladies report being hit in the head or having their head hit an immovable object is consistent with TBI. The scrapes, bruises, and lacerations on the head, neck, and face corroborate the injury’s history.

Why do people inflict violence on their intimate partners? This is a far bigger societal problem that is likely rooted in centuries of human behavior, such as patriarchy, taught expectations, and mutual respect. Pregnancy can alter one’s perspective, aspirations, and emotional condition, further complicating an intimate partner connection. Any of these elements, when paired with everyday social tensions, have the potential to inflame emotions and lead to violence. Many people are more aware of these problems than I am.

Could you explain how you conducted your most recent study on TBIs in pregnant women and kid brain development? What did you find out?

As previously said, brain development is a lengthy and complex process. We choose to employ relevant animal models to determine how to provide the greatest study evidence to address whether a single, isolated TBI during pregnancy can affect brain development. Many variables that would otherwise be beyond of our control can be controlled in the research environment using an animal model. As a result, we used an animal model to induce a single TBI and assess the behavior and brains of their offspring.

The main takeaway from our data is that the consequences of TBI during pregnancy were primarily driven by male offspring. TBI during development resulted in a male animal model with decreased body weight at weaning, reduced anxiety, and a slowed immunological response to stress or infection. Their brains were less well structured as a result of these neurological discoveries, as evidenced by more broad, local connections. The interpretation of these findings suggests that a single TBI can cause brain growth to be disrupted and that more research into behavior and development is warranted.

What does the phrase “gravida TBI” mean, and why is it important to raise awareness about it?

The medical term for pregnancy or a pregnant lady is gravida. A traumatic brain injury suffered by a pregnant woman is known as gravida Traumatic Brain Injuries, and health care practitioners must be aware of the repercussions for both mother and child.

Our research encourages health-care practitioners to think about the short- and long-term effects of TBI on children. When a kid suffers a gravida TBI, he or she is more likely to develop a variety of health problems, including but not limited to neurological symptoms.

You also looked into mental health and neurodevelopmental concerns during your studies. Have you noticed any patterns?

As previously stated, we used established laboratory animal models to explore cognition, anxiety, and depression as outcome measures.

Why is it so important for doctors to note possible TBIs from IPV in their medical records?

Traumatic Brain Injuries affects one’s health in ways that go beyond quick healing. Specific neurological abnormalities – headache, dizziness – can emerge at the time of injury and resolve quickly. Other neurological morbidities, such as cognition, emotion, and sensitivity, might occur suddenly or gradually over months, years, or a lifetime.

Understanding the emergence of new symptoms or the worsening of existing ones can be aided by health record documentation.

IPV can also be prosecuted as a criminal or civil crime. A health care provider’s documentation, such as that of a forensic nurse, might be used as evidence in a lawsuit against the abuser.

Do you think the COVID-19 epidemic will increase the number of women who develop TBIs as a result of IPV owing to global lockdown measures?

Unquestionably. Domestic assaults are on the rise around the world, according to stories in the public media and professional journals. The intensity and severity of the injuries increased in regions where the number of events did not necessarily grow. As previously stated, when domestic violence happens between intimate partners and the assaults become physical, the head, neck, and face are frequently attacked.

As countless others have described, the lockdown tactics may have isolated those in danger with their abuser, preventing others from intervening.

What else can be done to assist pregnant women who may be infected with IPV and are at risk of a TBI?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be treated. Numerous experts labor tirelessly to identify and treat the wide range of neurological symptoms that a TBI patient may encounter. Treatments can take a long time, but they can help to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. The best advice is to approach patient advocates — social workers, coworkers, and friends – and ask for assistance in locating resources.

What are your research’s future steps?

Moving forward, we’ll take two different methods to our investigation. The findings of this study led us to wonder if the effects of gravida TBI were due to the brain-injured mother rearing her children, an effect of gravida TBI on the placenta, or enlarged effects of neurological and other system function. Other colleagues have expressed an interest in exploring a variety of outcome measures alongside us.

Second, we’ll look for people with Traumatic Brain Injuries and/or DV during pregnancy in our electronic health records. The demographics of the women, birth-related outcomes, and the health status of the children are all things we hope to report on. We achieve translational research in this way by gaining a better grasp of the process and its influence on society.

What resources can readers use to learn more?

The Ohio Domestic Violence Network, which is driving the conversation regarding TBI as a result of DV, IPV, and strangling, has a strong partnership with us: https://www.odvn.org/

Other resources can be found through national women’s centers and local domestic violence shelters.

About Jonathan Lifshitz, Ph.D.

The Neurotrauma & Social Impact research team is led by Jonathan Lifshitz, Ph.D., and is a collaboration between the Phoenix VA Health Care System, University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix, and Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Restorative and regenerative treatments for traumatic brain injury as it progresses into chronic neurodegenerative disease are the focus of the study. Domestic violence, child abuse, gender imbalance, marriage norms, and Veteran mental health are all investigated. The goal is to use what we’ve learned to improve our communities’ health through precision diagnosis, rehabilitation, and new knowledge.

He has a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from UCLA, a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania, and fellowships from both UPenn and VCU. He is the project leader for municipal, state, and federally sponsored research in cognitive rehabilitation, cardiovascular risk factors, systemic consequences of brain injury, and vital imaging, among others. He is currently the scientific director for regional and national consortia aimed at better understanding traumatic brain injury caused by domestic abuse. He is the Lead Scientist and Director of Research and Development at The CACTIS Foundation and heads the Arizona Governor’s Council on Spinal and Head Injury. He also co-hosts the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix program ReImagine Medicine.

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