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Annals of epidemiology

Use of meconium in perinatal epidemiology: potential benefits and pitfalls.


PMID 25444889

Abstract

Meconium is a biomarker matrix that can be used to assess cumulative exposures in epidemiologic studies of prenatal risk factors. Depending on when meconium is collected, different exposure windows during pregnancy can be measured. However, little guidance exists regarding the extent to which timing of meconium collection will influence resulting effect estimates. We performed a simulation study of prenatal tobacco smoke exposure (assessed from meconium nicotine) and birth weight. We discuss four typical meconium collection methods capturing different exposure windows and assess the biases induced by these methods. In simulations assuming that exposure to tobacco smoke only during late gestation was of etiologic relevance to birth weight, use of a meconium collection method that captured exposure windows other than late gestation resulted in biased estimates of the true nicotine-birth weight association. Using meconium collection methods that do not reflect an exposure window of etiologic relevance can lead to biased results and erroneous conclusions regarding the nature of prenatal exposure-outcome associations. Understanding how prenatal exposure patterns vary across the pregnancy and exposure windows of etiologic relevance is essential in determining when and how to collect meconium for use in biomarker studies of prenatal exposure.

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