The fetus undergoes a crucial period of neurodevelopment in utero. The maternal hair metabolome provides an integrated record of the metabolic state of the mother prior to, and during pregnancy. We investigated whether variation in the maternal hair metabolome was associated with neurodevelopmental differences across infants. Maternal hair samples and infant neurocognitive assessments (using the Bayley III Scales of Infant Development at 24 months) were obtained for 373 infant-mother dyads between 26-28 weeks' gestation from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes cohort. The hair metabolome was analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Intensity measurements were obtained for 276 compounds. After controlling for maternal education, ethnicity, and infant sex, associations between metabolites and expressive language skills were detected, but not for receptive language, cognitive or motor skills. The results confirm previous research associating higher levels of phthalates with lower language ability. In addition, scores were positively associated with a cluster of compounds, including adipic acid and medium-chain fatty acids. The data support associations between the maternal hair metabolome and neurodevelopmental processes of the fetus. The association between phthalates and lower language ability highlights a modifiable risk factor that warrants further investigation.
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