Say Many Health Experts
As greater numbers of babies are born with drug dependencies, health officials are calling for screening pregnant women for substance abuse. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., one drug-dependent baby is born every hour in the U.S. More recent statistics show that hospitalizations for the condition are rising precipitously. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other health organizations, is calling for verbal drug screening following by a urine test if necessary and agreed upon. But there are dissenters. Some pregnancy rights advocates say that screening may lead to loss of custody rather than treatment. Many drug-dependent babies suffer pain from withdrawal, diarrhea, vomiting and seizures. Long-term effects are not known.
Thanks to Pregnancy Brain
Pregnant women have more car crashes, especially during their second trimesters - and they can blame “pregnancy brain,” foggy thinking that many women complain about as pregnancy progresses, says a new study from the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto. Researchers found that before pregnancy, the number of serious crashes for all pregnant women drivers in the study (500,000 who were tracked for four years before and one year after giving birth) was 177 per month. That stayed steady in the early months of pregnancy but, by the fourth month, the same women were having 299 serious crashes per month. That rate declined significantly in the last month of pregnancy and remained low after the births. Researchers advise pregnant women to drive carefully in mid-pregnancy.
No Adverse Effects on Baby
The H1N1 flu vaccine during pregnancy has no adverse effects on infant health during the first year, finds a Dutch study from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, found that infants of vaccinated and unvaccinated mothers were similar in regards to head circumference and weight and length for their ages. The babies’ developmental scores which assessed speech, language, psychosocial aspects and coarse motor function were also similar. "These findings ... may help the decision making process on maternal immunization in case of a new pandemic and possible other infectious diseases, which can be prevented by this strategy," said researcher Nicoline van der Maas, M.D.
Lowers Risk of Early Birth
Pregnant women who ate a healthy diet with plenty of produce, fewer processed foods and less sugar had a 15% lower risk of delivering prematurely, finds a new study. Researchers studied a database of 66,000 Norwegian women who filled out a food diary while pregnant and found that what women ate during pregnancy was as important as what they didn’t eat. In other words, it wasn’t that women who ate processed foods and sugars were at greater risk to deliver prematurely. It was that healthier eating reduced that risk. “Our results indicate that increasing the intake of foods associated with a prudent dietary pattern is more important than totally excluding processed food, fast food, junk food, and snacks,” wrote researchers.
May Affect Brain Development
Pregnant women who took acetaminophen were more likely to have a child with ADHD, according to a Danish study. While the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship and more research is needed, it does raise concerns among women who’ve been told the drug is safe during pregnancy. The study of more than 64,000 Danish children found that those whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were 13% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD-like behaviors; 37% were more likely to be diagnosed with hyperkinetic disorder and 29% were more likely to get ADHD meds. The study is preliminary and health experts say pregnant women should still use acetaminophen for fever because fevers may affect fetal development but should be conservative in their treatment of aches and pains.
1 in 100 Babies Born in U.S.
One in one hundred babies born in the U.S. are conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a process by which eggs and sperm are mixed in a lab dish before being implanted in utero, according to a new report by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. That statistic translates to 61,740 babies in 2012, up 2,000 from the previous year. This rising trend is the opposite of U.S. birth rates which have been declining steadily since 2007 perhaps because couples are having babies later in life when fertility begins to decline. The report also indicates that, to avoid multiple births, which raises the risk of prematurity and other problems, 15% of women are using one embryo at a time. In 2007, only 4% of women under 35 used single embryos.
Docs Urge Caution
A new study from the University of Copenhagen finds that moderate drinking during pregnancy results in children with better mental health. But, U.S. doctors caution that abstinence is the best policy during pregnancy and any that amount of alcohol could endanger the baby. Study co-author Janni Niclasen studied the Danish National Birth Cohort which queried 37,000 women between 1996 and 2002 and found that children with mothers who consumed about two drinks per week had better mental health. But, cautions Dr. David Streitman, Magee Women’s Hospital, PA, be careful when interpreting these results. It’s difficult to quantify the amount of alcohol a pregnant woman could have before risking her baby’s health. “There could be a ‘safe number’ [of drinks]. But we don’t know what that is.”
Costs Are Still Prohibitive
Jimmy Fallon recently revealed that his infant daughter, Winnie Rose, was born via a gestational surrogate - and, while it’s still rare, using a surrogate is becoming more accepted in the US. In fact, more US couples are turning to surrogacy to start or grow their families according to statistics from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that chart a slow but steady increase in surrogacy births since 2004 when 738 babies were born via surrogacy. That number doubled in 2011 to 1,593 babies born via surrogacy. But because surrogacy is expensive and most insurance companies don’t cover the costs which can run upwards of $100,000 for medical, legal and surrogacy fees, it’s still an option for the privileged and famous, including Sara Jessica Parker and Giuliana Rancic.
Lower C-Section Rate Too
Pregnant women who exercise three times a week during the second and third trimesters have half the risk of giving birth to a baby with a birth weight of more than 8 lbs., 8 oz., finds a study from the Polytechnic U. of Madrid. Researchers followed 780 sedentary pregnant women, 510 of whom volunteered to do aerobic, muscle strength and flexibility exercises for 55 minutes three days a week during their second and third trimesters. The control group received standard care. While exercise did not reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes, it did reduce the incidence of having a high birth weight baby. In addition, deliveries by Caesarean section fell by 34% in the group that exercised. Researchers say the findings reinforce the need to encourage supervised exercise during pregnancy.
You Thought You Had a Bad Day
A sixty-six year old Chinese man who sought medical treatment for abdominal swelling discovered it was due to a cyst on his ovary - and that he was really a woman. His extremely rare condition was caused by Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes women to lack female features and renders them unable to become pregnant and congenital adrenal hyperplasia which increased his male hormones to make him look more masculine. There have been only six cases of patients with both conditions reported in medical literature. The patient, who like almost all people with Turner syndrome, is short and stands slightly taller than 4 feet. He has a penis but no testes and said he’ll continue to think of himself as a male. He is considering receiving male hormone treatment.
Researchers Find a Link
High blood pressure during pregnancy may lead to hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, find researchers who examined the link between hypertensive diseases in pregnancy and menopausal symptoms in 853 women. Of the participants, 274 had hypertensive disease, such as preeclampsia, during pregnancy. 82% of those experienced hot flashes during menopause vs 75% for women who never had hypertension. Researchers also found that women who were hypertensive during pregnancy suffered more severe and longer lasting hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Researchers say that while the correlation is not definitive, it indicates a biological link that medical professionals should consider as female patients grow older. The study will be published in the journal Menopause in October.
Pregnant in Heels
Research from the U of Iowa confirms that pregnancy permanently enlarges a woman’s feet. Plus, pregnancy flattens the arch and increases looseness of the joints, perhaps leading to arthritis. IU researchers collected foot measurements of 49 pregnant women from their first trimester to 5 months after delivery and found that for 60-70% of them, their feet became wider and longer by between 2 and 10 mm. The research suggests that first pregnancies may account for most of the changes while subsequent pregnancies may not further change foot structure. "It is possible that these foot changes that occur during pregnancy may help explain why, in comparison with men, women are at higher risk for pain or arthritis in their feet, knees, hips and spines,” says researcher Neil Segal, M.D.
Lower Birth Weight Too
Caffeine consumption during pregnancy is linked to longer gestation and lower birth weight, says a Norwegian study that found that the source of caffeine is also a factor. Researchers, using data collected over 10 years, studied 60,000 pregnancies to learn if mothers’ caffeine consumption affected birth details. All sources of caffeine were monitored. Researchers found that caffeine reduced birth weight by about 21-28 grams lost per 100 mg caffeine consumed/day. Caffeine from all sources increased length of pregnancy by 5 hours per 100 mg of caffeine consumed per day while caffeine from coffee increased gestation by 8 hours for every 100 mg of caffeine consumed per day. Researchers say The World Health Org’s recommendation of a caffeine limit of 300 mg per day needs to be reevaluated.
And, Oh Yeah, She's Pregnant
Kate Middleton, whose pregnancy was formally announced today, was hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, an extreme, potentially dangerous form of morning sickness. She is expected to remain in the hospital for several days. Hyperemesis gravidarum affects about one in 50 pregnant women and is more common in younger women, women pregnant for the first time and those expecting multiple births. (Let the speculation begin.) Kate’s hospital discharge will depend on how well she’s keeping fluids down, experts say, and add that women are treated with IV fluids and nutritional supplements. The condition, which is thought to be linked to hormonal changes, usually subsides by the second trimester. There are no long term effects for mother or child if the condition is recognized and treated early.
Know Your Medical HIstory
Pregnancy complications are higher for women who were born preterm, says a new study that found that mothers born before 32 weeks gestation had about twice the risk of developing at least one complication during their own pregnancies, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and hypertension. For the study, researchers examined Quebec health records from women born between 1976 and 1995. Of those, 7,400 were born early; 16,700 were born at term. After correcting for the fact that women born preterm had higher rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, researchers found a significantly higher rate of pregnancy complications in preterm women. Researchers stress that women should be aware of their own medical history and that doctors should take this into account when treating them.
Floss and Brush
Gum disease may worsen women’s health issues including bone loss and pre-term births, finds Charlene Krejci, Case Western Reserve U School of Dental Medicine. Krejci found that hormonal changes in the various stages of women’s lives - puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause - allow bacteria in the mouth to grow and enter the bloodstream, exacerbating certain health issues. "Although women tend to take better care of their oral health than men, the main message is women need to be even more vigilant about maintaining healthy teeth and gums to prevent or lessen the severity of some women-specific health issues.” Krejci recommends that women have bi-annual dental exams and visit their dentist more often during pregnancy or if gum disease or bone loss is found.
32 Boys Born for Every 100 Girls
Women diagnosed with heart disease are more likely to give birth to girls, finds an Iranian study involving 200 pregnant women diagnosed with heart disease. Of the 216 children born, 75% were females. In other words, 32 boys were born for every 100 girls. In Iran’s general population, 10 boys are born for every 100 girls, according to CIA statistics. The researchers cannot explain the reason for their study’s results but, says Dr. Kathryn Taubert, World Heart Federation, "Chromosomes in a man's sperm are responsible for the sex of a baby. But this study does suggest that there may be a relationship between the health status of the mother and the sex of the babies that she is able to carry to full-term." Scientists hope their study will spur additional research into this possible link.
Babies at Risk
A new study on obesity and pregnancy warns obese women to lose weight before becoming pregnant. The U of IL study indicates that, even if obese women eat a healthy diet during pregnancy, their babies will develop in an environment that places their future health at risk. "We can see fat sequestered in the placentas of obese mothers when it should be going to the baby to support its growth. The nutrient supply region in the placenta of an obese mother is half the size of that of a normal-weight mother, even when both are eating the same healthy diet," said researcher Yuan-Xiang Pan. Pan cautions that obesity creates an unhealthy environment that it takes time to reverse and advises women to pay attention to their diet well before becoming pregnant.
Developmental Disorders Too
Maternal obesity may be linked to an increase in the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder finds a study published in the online journal Pediatrics. Researchers compared medical histories of 315 normally developing children with those of 517 children with autism and 172 children with development disorders and found that the risk of autism increased by 70% when the mother was obese, defined as having a BMI of 25+. In addition, maternal obesity doubled the risk of having a baby with neurodevelopmental delays, found the study. Researchers say the study shows an association between maternal obesity and autism and not that obesity causes autism. In the meantime, women planning on becoming pregnant are advised to watch their weight.
Very Effective, Yet Unpopular
About 30 percent of medical providers believe intrauterine devices IUDs, which prevent pregnancy by releasing copper or progestin when implanted in the uterus, are not safe for women who have never had children even though their safety has been established. This perception also correlates with their lack of popularity, which is interesting because previous studies have shown that 0.2 to 0.8 percent of unplanned pregnancies occurred in women with hormonal and copper IUDs, respectively, lower than the rate than with the pill or condoms. Researchers believe that women should be more aware of this option. The Mirena IUD can lead to irregular menstrual cycles but usually reduces bleeding. The ParaGard IUD is known to cause heavier bleeding and make cramps worse, but it is usually temporary.
Woman’s Best Friend
Pregnant women who own and walk a dog are more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes per day of exercise than those who don’t, finds collaborative research from the U of Liverpool and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. The study of more than 11,000 pregnant women is the first of its kind to look at the effects of dog ownership on activity levels during pregnancy. Prior studies have shown that maternal obesity can lead to both short and long term health complications for the baby. "As a low-risk exercise, dog walking can help women, who may otherwise find it hard to meet their exercise targets, keep active and fit during pregnancy. Together with a balanced diet, it could therefore help towards ensuring a healthy pregnancy,” says researcher Dr. Sandra McCune.
State Laws Focus on "Risks"
Information from government data on live births and deaths due to pregnancy or abortions revealed that abortion was 14 times safer than giving birth which translated into one maternal death out of 11,000 live births compared to one death out of 167,000 legal abortions. Hypertension, urinary tract problems and mental health issues were more prevalent in women who gave birth, while infection was the main, yet very small, risk of having an abortion. Many state laws require that health care providers have to go over a list that emphasizes the risk, some of which are unfounded such as abortion increasing the risk of cancer and include 24 hour wait periods after counseling. Researchers believe laws the guide conversations between women and their providers are inappropriate.
Men Want Sons
Having a baby and have a preference about its sex? A study from Queen’s U says that you are not alone. "Gender neutrality -- a lack of preference -- is now a standard cultural norm embraced within most wealthy developed countries ...,” says coauthor Lonnie Aarssen, but the results of the study reveal a strong gender bias despite researchers’ prediction of gender neutrality. So, men want sons; women want daughters. Historically, men and women had a strong preference for sons but “now that women are empowered like never before in history, they are free to anticipate and realize their vision for legacy, expressly through opportunities now more widely available to their own gender." People have a strong desire to leave something of themselves behind, explains Dr. Aarssen.
A study from Queensland U of Technology has found a link between the incidence of stillbirth, shorter pregnancies and temperature increases. The study analyzed 101,870 births over a 4-year period and recorded weekly temperatures, humidity and air pollution levels for each pregnancy. "Our estimated numbers were at 15°C (59 F) there would be 353 stillbirths per 100,000 pregnancies, as compared with 610 stillbirths per 100,000 pregnancies at 23°C. (73.4 F),” says researcher Adrian Barnett who adds, “Increased temperatures shortened gestation times, which means more preterm babies who often have serious long-term health problems such as cerebral palsy and impaired vision and hearing." As global temperatures rise, the study could have serious public health implications, says Barnett.
More Risks for Mom and Child
Women who consume trans fat during pregnancy have been shown to give birth to bigger babies, according to recent research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health. And bigger babies can lead to a greater risk of complications for both mother and baby, including delivery by Ceasarean-section and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease later in life. The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed almost 1,400 pregnant women and found that for every 1 percent increase of the artificial fats made from partially hydrogenated oils, there was an associated increase in the baby’s fetal growth “Z-scores.” Trans fats are found mostly in processed and fast foods, such as baked goods, chips, crackers and French fries.
There’s An App for That
A new iPhone app tracks your body as it changes throughout your pregnancy. The app reminds you to take daily pictures of yourself and creates a time lapse video that you can share on Facebook, YouTube or in email. It was created by Mike Hall, who also created the Watch Me Change, Weight Loss app that allows you to track your body’s physical changes as you lose weight. Watch Me Change, Weight Loss “is a great tool to motivate people to lose weight and gain muscle since they get to create and watch a video of their body changing over time,” says Hall. The apps, which have many applications besides their intended titles - for example, take daily photos of your child and create a time lapse video chronicling his or her growth - are available at the iPhone store for $.99 each.
The Co-Pay Has Gone Away
The Health and Human Services Department has made it the law of the land that U.S. health insurance companies have to completely cover the cost of birth control, eliminating co-pays because they argue it falls under the category of preventative care. It also includes gestational diabetes screening, testing for HPV in women over 30, STD and HIV counseling and identifying domestic violence. Whether the "morning after pill" which is used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse will be covered is uncertain. Proponents see this as victory for women’s health and hope birth control becomes more affordable and accessible. Opponents say this makes pregnancy look like a disease. An exemption was given to religious institutions who believe covering birth control runs contrary to their values.
Docs Blame CV Health, Obesity
The rate of stroke has risen significantly for pregnant women and new mothers say researchers who, using a large national database, compared the rates of strokes from 1994-5 with those from 2006-7 in pregnant and delivering women and those who recently gave birth. The rate of stroke hospitalizations rose 47% for expectant mothers and 83% for women during the postpartum period. "Now more and more women entering pregnancy already have some type of risk factor for stroke, such as obesity, chronic hypertension, diabetes or congenital heart disease. Since pregnancy by itself is a risk factor, if you have one of these other stroke risk factors, it doubles the risk,” says lead author Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, who calls for more research.
What Bugs Like
With more than 3000 species of mosquitos, chances are you’re going to get bitten sooner or later. But what attracts the bugs to some people more than others? Scientists say it has to do with sight and smell. Mosquitos are highly visual and initially hone in on people wearing dark colors. Once they zero in on a target, the second attractor is the rate of carbon dioxide you produce. The higher your metabolic rate, the more CO2 produced. Other attractive scents include lactic acid, given off after exercise; acetone and estradiol. Mosquitos also prefer people with warmer body temperatures, making pregnant women excellent targets. It’s only female mosquitos that bite - and not for food. They eat plant nectar but use your blood to get a protein needed to develop their eggs.
Iron Necessary for Fetal Growth
Research suggests that obese pregnant women increase the risk of their babies being born iron deficient which is a serious concern because half of the iron a fetus needs for growth is obtained prior to birth. This study involved 281 pregnant women with a body mass index of at least 30. Umbilical cord blood was taken to measure the fetuses’ iron levels. Newborns of obese mothers did have impaired iron status but is it not known why this occurs. Impaired iron absorption has been associated with obesity in adults who are not pregnant and researchers believe diabetes may play a role. Maternal obesity results in large fetuses and since iron is needed for fetal growth, the need increases as fetal size increases. Brain development in infants can also be impaired due to iron deficiency.
In High Risk Women
A new study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds that among pregnant women at high risk of preterm birth, eating fish a few times a week appears to reduce the risk of delivering early. Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital compared the diets of 852 pregnant women who were at higher than average risk of preterm delivery. Those who ate two or three servings of fish per week were about 40 percent less likely to deliver early than women who ate fish less than monthly. The reason for the association is not clear, but it is suspected that nutrients in the fish may help lower the odds for early delivery. Even with these findings, the researchers still stress that pregnant women should avoid fish that are high in mercury, such as swordfish and king mackerel.
One-Third of US Adults Is Obese
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeks to combat obesity by funding research for new programs and technology designed to address the problem which affects more than one-third of adults and nearly 17% of US children. Research recommendations include using technology to advance obesity research and improve healthcare delivery, discover key processes that regulate body weight and influence behavior, and evaluate strategies to prevent and treat obesity in real-world settings. The NIH plan hopes to improve public health by highlighting education and community outreach. One advance by past NIH task forces was to help women achieve a healthy weight before and during pregnancy to ensure the future health of their children.
ONE in 10 UK MOMS AFFECTED
Despite its name postnatal depression can actually start during pregnancy, this according to the Mother and Baby Unit at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). The Mother and Baby Unit of SLaM routinely treats women who have developed depression while pregnant or who have relapsed back into previous mental illnesses due to being pregnant. Dr. Trudi Seneviratne, a SLaM psychiatrist said"While depression following birth is the most common form of pregnancy-related depression, it can also begin during pregnancy, or months after giving birth." Around one in 10 UK mothers are said to suffer from postnatal depression. Common indicators of postnatal depression are: tearfulness, feeling overwhelmed, lack of appetite and lack of interest in your new baby and yourself.
Low to Moderate Intensity
A University of Georgia study has found that a supervised, low-to-moderate intensity weight training program is safe and beneficial for pregnant women. A reason that physicians are reluctant to allow weight training for pregnant women is that they produce high amounts of a hormone called relaxin, which can make connective tissue more lax. In the trial, 32 women did a series of six exercises twice a week that targeted muscles that play an important role in back pain and function, but did not increase relaxin. Women were found to be able to increase strength during pregnancy with proper training to avoid problematic symptoms such as pelvic pain, headache, or dizziness. Interestingly, though, the weight lifting did not have any effect good or bad on blood pressure.
Affects Brain Development
Because omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, a deficiency of this nutrient has been implicated in such conditions as poor memory and depression. New research finds that pregnant women who have a dietary insufficiency of omega-3’s increase the risk of the unborn child to later develop depression in adulthood. Scientists from Spain fed mice a life-long diet imbalanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and found that a lack of the former disturbed neuronal communication. This dysfunction was accompanied by depressive behaviors in the malnourished animals. Although fish is the best source of omega-3’s, pregnant women are discouraged from eating more than a single 6-ounce meal per week due to the potential for mercury toxicity.
Moms Should Be Reassured
For most women, with only a few exceptions, sex during pregnancy is safe, finds a research study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Potential, yet uncommon, risks include premature labor, pelvic inflammatory disease, hemorrhage in placenta previa, and blood clots. Restriction of intercourse is recommended for women at risk for premature labor, such as those with cervical incompetence or a history of early labor, even though the evidence to this point is limited. “Sex in pregnancy is normal,” write the authors. “There are very few proven contradictions and risks to intercourse in low-risk pregnancies, and therefore these patients should be reassured.” Comfort level and readiness should be used as a guide for sexual activity during pregnancy and postpartum.
Organic Moms Exercised Too
During pregnancy, women are often most concerned about the foods they eat and the effects they could have on their unborn child. A Norwegian study that questioned over 65,000 women found that approximately 10 percent, or one in ten, expecting mothers report being more likely to eat organic food. Most often, the women chose vegetables and eggs more carefully, selecting those not produced with pesticides or other chemical ingredients. Women who consumed organic food during gestation also tended to exercise an average of three times a week and more often had normal or low body weight. Unfortunately, eating organic food did not always translate into healthier pregnancy habits. A significant number of those women also drank alcohol and smoked while pregnant.
Thanks Gestational Carrier
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the birth of their second daughter, Faith Margaret, who was brought into the world via a “gestational carrier,” a woman who carried the couple’s fertilized embryo to term. This is unlike surrogacy where the surrogate mother’s egg is used. Among the reasons a couple may choose a gestational carrier are that some women are born without a uterus but have healthy eggs; others may have a medical condition that could make pregnancy dangerous, says Dr. Alan Penzias, a fertility specialist in Boston who did not consult on the famous couple’s pregnancy. The process requires extensive genetic testing to ensure that the baby will be healthy and psychological testing to ensure that all parties can withstand the stresses of the unique situation.
Iron and Folic Acid
Ensuring an adequate supply of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy not only protects baby from the risk of physical conditions such as spina bifida, but they may also enhance mental skills that can help children become smarter, more organized and have better fine motor skills, positively affecting educational future. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on two important nutrients when studying children born to mothers in rural Nepal. Iron is essential for the development of the central nervous system, they write, and iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Folic acid impacts neurocognitive function. Both have a significant impact on intelligence, executive function and motor skills.
Ian Shapira of the Washington Post tells the story of Shana Greatman Swears through a series of her Facebook page postings. In March, Shana and her husband were thrilled to learn that they were pregnant with their first child, who was born September 22 without any complications. But Shana went on to develop a rare condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy which weakens the heart, and she ultimately died on October 31. In the United States, peripartum cardiomyopathy complicates one in every 1,300 to 4,000 deliveries. It may occur in a woman of any age, but is most common in after age 30. Risk factors include obesity, having a personal cardiac disorder history, the use of certain medications, smoking, alcoholism, multiple pregnancies, being African American and being malnourished.
Other Factors May Link Both
A German study showed that woman who had over three miscarriages may increase their risk of heart attack. Looking at the pregnancy history of over 11,500 women in their mid-30s to mid-60s, it was found one in four women reported having one. Even after taking into account factors such as weight, smoking and consumption of alcohol and still found a 500 percent increase in the risk of heart attacks in women who had multiple miscarriages. These results have researchers asking why there appears to be a link. Professor Gordon Smith hypothesized “. . .that there is some common predisposing risk factor for both miscarriage and heart disease. During pregnancy, it is manifested by increased risk of miscarriage, and later in life, it manifests itself as an increase in heart disease risk.”
Alters Genes Affecting Appetite
What your mother ate while she was pregnant may have determined your propensity for weight gain. A new animal study published online in the FASEB Journal shows that eating a high-fat diet - 35 percent or more of calories coming from fat sources - during pregnancy alters the function of genes (epigenetic changes) that regulate circadian rhythm and appetite. A specific gene affected includes one called Npas2, a key regulator for both sleep and food intake. The research also found that the children of those eating a high-fat diet were more likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Lead researcher Kjersti Aagaard-Tillery MD PhD says “We are enthusiastic that even small changes…will translate into a lower chance for obesity in our next generation.”
One of the nation’s largest dental insurers is encouraging adults to see their dentist regularly due to research that shows a link between oral health and medical conditions such as diabetes and premature birth. As part of American Diabetes Month and Prematurity Awareness Month (November), United Concordia Dental is stressing that dental health is “vital to overall wellness.” In fact, periodontal disease was called the sixth complication of diabetes, according to a 2000 report by the Surgeon General called “Oral Health in America.” Pregnant women with gum disease are seven times more likely to deliver a premature low birth weight baby. Corporate director Dr. Jerome Blum DDS said, “Our ultimate goal is to help our members understand the importance of proper dental care.”
Combination of Factors Involved
Obviously a mother’s diet during pregnancy affects the health of her unborn child, but dad’s diet may have a role as well. A new animal study suggests that fathers who eat a high fat diet may predispose their daughters to diabetes. The research conducted at the University of New South Wales found that offspring of obese male diabetic rats and normal weight non-diabetic female rats showed signs of diabetes by week 13 of life. The researchers are not sure if hormonal and metabolic factors are involved, if DNA becomes damaged, or if the association is environmental, but the research points to the importance of the health of both the mother and the father at the time of conception, including maintaining a healthy body weight and diet.
No Need for Supplements
In the past few years, supplements of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, found in fish oil have been though to reduce the risk of postpartum depression in mothers, however the latest research finds no benefit. Neither do the supplements appear to boost cognitive development skills in the infants, according to the research presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association. For the study, the researchers evaluated 2,320 women randomly assigned from the 21st week of pregnancy to either take three 500 mg fish oil capsules or a placebo made of vegetable oil. Depression was tested twice after delivery and women taking the supplements only had a 1 percent lower incidence of postpartum depression. Experts generally recommend 200 mg of DHA a day during pregnancy.
Support and Guidance Are Key
Women have long been advised not to gain too much, or too little, weight during pregnancy because of potential risks to both mom and baby. Overweight and obese mothers-to-be are at a greater risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and C-section. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can lead to macrosomia, or larger babies, which can lead to the child having health issues later in life, including childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. A lifestyle program for expectant women through the California Polytechnic State University found that during the support period, more women achieved a healthy weight gain as opposed to gaining too much or too little. Women also were found to return to their pre-pregnancy weight more often after receiving guidance.
No Safe Treatment
There is still no safe or effective treatment for morning sickness, find researchers who evaluated evidence for pharmaceutical and alternative medicines. Morning sickness, feelings of nausea and vomiting, affects more than half of all pregnant women in the early stages of their pregnancies and can occur at any time of the day. The review involved 4041 women in the early stages of pregnancy and compared benefits of acupuncture, acupressure, ginger to relieve nausea, vitamin B6 and the antenatal drug Debendox, among others. "Despite the wealth of different treatments available, it is not possible currently to identify with confidence any safe and effective interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy," said lead researcher Dr. Anne Matthews, Dublin City University.
Many Risks Can Be Prevented
Almost fifty percent of women with pre-pregnancy diabetes have C-sections to deliver their babies compared to 27 percent of women without diabetes, finds a Canadian study. As rates of diabetes rise, particularly among women of childbearing age, researchers are seeing more evidence of pregnancy complications. Here, some highlights of the study: Rates of major and minor birth defects are 60 percent higher in babies whose mothers have pre-gestational diabetes than in those without diabetes. The rate of stillbirth or neonatal fatality is twice as high in women with pre-pregnancy diabetes than in those without diabetes. Most diabetes can be prevented by controlling glucose and blood pressure, say researchers who hope this study will help reduce or prevent diabetes among young women.
Fewer C-Sections Too
Obese women who have bariatric surgery before pregnancy are three times less likely to develop gestational diabetes (GDM) than women who had the operation after delivery. Delivery after bariatric procedures also reduced the risk of having cesarean section. The recent study findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. According to the background information, gestational diabetes affects at least seven percent of all pregnancies in the US. Obesity increases the risk and about 33 percent of American women over 19 years old have a BMI over 30, the definition of obesity. Having a bariatric surgical procedure, such as gastric bypass, has also been shown to reduce other obesity-related pregnancy risks such as hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
Pregnant Women Should Get Milk
A new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that women who develop a severe pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin D than healthy pregnant women. Preeclampsia, or pregnancy-related severe high blood pressure, happens in about 2 to 3 percent of pregnancies and contributes to about 15 percent of the preterm births in the United States. Many experts say that a blood level of at least 42 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D is needed for overall health. The women in the study who suffered from preeclampsia had an average of 18 ng/mL. Currently the daily recommended intake for pregnant women is 200 to 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Most prenatal vitamins contain 400 IU.
Obese and Pregnant
A study involving almost 125,000 women who gave birth between 2002 and 2008 suggest a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) may increase the risk of having a C-section. Fourteen percent of the women in the study had a c-section and for every unit increase in BMI, that chance increased by 4 percent. Women giving birth for the first time or who had children but no C-section had a 5 percent risk of having one with a one-unit increase in BMI, while those who had had children and a previous C-section had a 2 percent increased risk. Other factors do increase the chance of a C-section and now obesity appears to be another. Dr. Hugh Ehrenburg of The Ohio State University said, "The increase in the cesarean rate in this country is a multifaceted issue. Obesity is certainly a significant cog in that wheel."
Avoid Fatty Foods When Pregnant
Poor diet is known to affect fetal development, and British researchers from Oxford University studying mice have found that a high fat diet during pregnancy may influence the type or severity of certain birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate. Genetically altered mice fed a high fat diet before and during pregnancy had certain changes occur in the environment of the womb that increased the risk of cleft palate more than seven-fold. The risk of atrial isomerism, a defect where both atria of the heart are similar, increased by two times. The changes did not happen in the genetically normal offspring of mothers who had a high fat diet, suggesting that it is the combination of high fat diet and the genetic defect that is responsible, the researchers said.
Only the Best Survive
University of Adelaide Professor Sarah Robertson says that she has found that the female reproductive system is ‘choosy’ when it comes to inferior quality sperm and it rejects those that are not good enough to create a pregnancy. Her findings, currently based on animal studies of mice and pigs, indicate that seminal fluid initiates a signaling pathway that activates gene expression changes in the female immune system. The female body responds either positively or negatively to the opportunity to become pregnant. She believes the biology has evolved to prevent pregnancy with genetically damaged sperm or to avoid having a baby when conditions in the female body are unfavorable. Dr. Robertson plans to do further research in human subjects.
No More Accidental Mooning
A stay in the hospital is trying enough without the added anxiety of immodest hospital gowns. But now, peek-a-boo gowns may be a garment of the past. Researchers from the U of Montreal have designed an improved healthcare garment, called the DUO gown, that not only preserves one’s modesty, it saves hospitals money. Composed of superimposed front and back panels that maintain modesty, the gown is unisex, one size fits all and can accommodate obese or pregnant patients. Without ties or Velcro closures, it simplifies dressing patients. The cost and maintenance of 100 traditional gowns amount to $10,738 versus $9,540 for the DUO gowns. The designers secured patents for North America and it’s expected that the gown will be widely available there within the next five to 10 years.
Related to Mom's Blood Sugar
Children whose mothers had high blood glucose levels during pregnancy are more prone to low insulin sensitivity, finds a new study. Low insulin sensitivity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and, while obesity is known to lower insulin sensitivity, body weight had little bearing on the results of this study. Instead, researchers found an inverse relationship between a pregnant woman’s blood sugar and her child’s insulin sensitivity. The higher the mother’s blood sugar levels, the lower the child’s sensitivity to insulin. “Obstetricians, pediatricians, and pregnant women should all be aware of the potential far-reaching consequences that elevated blood sugar during pregnancy can have on children's health,” said study co-author Paula Chandler-Laney, PhD, U of Alabama.
Wear Sensible Shoes Instead
High heels, Uggs and flip flops should be avoided by moms-to-be as they may cause foot and back problems, according to a survey from the British Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. Of 1000 pregnant women surveyed, seven in 10 who wore high heels reported foot problems including swollen ankles and heel pain. High heels "place extra pressure on your joints when they are already under strain, which can result in a host of foot, leg and back problems and could increase the likelihood of falls," said podiatrist Lorraine Jones. Sixty-six percent of the women surveyed said they regularly wore flip flops, 53% wore ballet pumps, 30% wore Uggs and 32% wore high heels. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends "comfortable footwear that provides extra support and shock absorption."
Higher Rate of Birth Defects
Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease and premature death. Now evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate it can harm unborn babies. About one in five women are obese when they become pregnant and medical records show that they have a higher incidence of Caesarean sections. Plus, their babies are at greater risk for birth defects and even death. Research indicates that babies born of obese women are three times more likely to die within the first month of life. The rate of still birth is much greater in obese women. Some NY hospitals are addressing the problem by buying longer surgical instruments, bigger beds, more sophisticated fetal testing monitors and are considering creating specialized centers staffed to provide emergency care for mothers and babies.
For Fetal and Maternal Health
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can adversely affect oral health, resulting in gingivitis, the buildup of plaque that causes gum inflammation; dental erosion due to increased acid in the mouth following a bout of morning sickness and benign pregnancy tumors that often disappear on their own but might require surgery if they do not, if they bleed or interfere with eating. Yet, only 22 to 34 percent of women visit their dentists during pregnancy. "Patients tend to delay the treatment of oral disease due to concerns for fetal safety; however, routine dental treatment can be performed safely at any time during pregnancy," says Dr. Homa Amini, DDS, co-author of an article on dental health during pregnancy that is published in the May/June 2010 issue of the journal General Dentistry.
Shawna, a San Bernardino County (Calif.) area woman, will give birth to her second child, a daughter, live on the internet on or around May 24. The stunt is motivated by Shawna and her husband Ernie's concern that birth center birthing is not getting the respect it deserves. "My wife and I are very concerned about the increasing C-section rate in our community, how almost every labor is now induced with drugs, and how women in our families and our community have been scared into unnecessary epidurals and surgeries," says Ernie. In addition, the couple is not happy that insurance companies make it hard to get adequate reimbursement if mothers choose to use a midwife and birth center. Interested parties can register online to view Shawna's live birth.
Affects Brain Development
It’s been established that smoking while pregnant can result in health issues for newborns, including low birth weight, respiratory disease and ear infections. A new Finnish study shows that maternal smoking may also cause long-term psychiatric problems that can manifest themselves in childhood and early adulthood. "Recent studies show that maternal smoking during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the growing fetus," said lead author Mikael Ekblad. "By avoiding smoking during pregnancy, all the later psychiatric problems caused by smoking exposure could be prevented." These problems include an increased risk for depression, attention deficit disorder and addiction. Maternal smoking is still common despite knowledge of its detrimental effects on health.
An Unintended Effect
Women who use bupropion during early pregnancy may have an increased risk of having a baby with a particular type of heart defect. Bupropion is used in the antidepressant medication Wellbutrin as well as the smoking cessation drug Zyban. Researchers from the CDC found that the risk of a left outflow defect, which affects the flow of blood from the heart’s left chamber to the rest of the body, occurred in 2 out of every 1000 infants born to women who used bupropion during the first trimester. Prior studies have indicated that the use of other antidepressants during pregnancy, such as Prozac and Zoloft, also increased the risk of birth defects. Dr. Jennita Reefhuis, senior epidemiologist at the CDC, asks women to discuss the risks with their physician before discontinuing meds.
Rare Condition Gave Woman N Cups
Julia Manihuari, a 29-year-old mother who lives in northern rural Peru, has been trapped in her bed for six months because of giant N-cup breasts. She said the pain from her breasts, which were so big they touched her legs, would cause tremendous pain. Doctors believe she suffers from gigantomastia, a rare condition of excessive breast growth that may occur during puberty or after pregnancy. The surge of hormones, both estrogen and progesterone, causes breast tissue to increase. Most women only experience only a one to three cup size change. After local media paid for her to take a 3-day boat trip to the nearest town, she underwent a 6-hour surgery that removed 35 pounds of breast tissue, leaving Manihuari with size 34B’s. (Before and after photos.)
You Can Tune a Piano...
Tuna that is served as sushi in restaurants was found to be higher in mercury than that found in a supermarket seafood counter, but all species had greater concentrations of the toxic contaminant than is recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The new study used DNA barcoding to find that Bluefin akami and bigeye tunas, chosen by restaurants because of their firm flesh and appealing look, have higher levels of mercury. Blue fin toro tuna and the smaller yellowfin species contain less mercury. Mercury accumulates more in the muscle of the fish, so the fattier tuna has a lesser concentration of the metal. The research could help lead to better labeling to assist those who need to monitor mercury intake, such as children and pregnant women.
Mount Sinai Research
Specific genetic markers on the placenta may indicate the likelihood of a woman developing pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia or fetal growth restriction. Although they were once thought to be static after the first trimester, researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that these markers change over the course of the pregnancy, which might make it possible to identify windows of opportunity to detect and respons to risks. Genomic imprinting is a process that occurs in the placenta, and epigenetics may be able to modify how a gene behaves without altering the DNA. About 10 percent of pregnancies experience complications from preeclampsia or fetal growth restriction.
Great News for Mums-to-Be
Maternal mortality rates sees a sharp decline for the first time in decades. Findings published in the medical journal The Lancet reveal that deaths relating to childbirth and pregnancy have decreased from 526,300 in 1980 to about 342,900 in 2008. The figures were pulled from death records, censuses, surveys and published studies from 181 countries. Factors that might have contributed to the improvement are: lower pregnancy rates in some countries; improved nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and better medical training. The journal's editor, Dr. Richard Horton, stated that the newly released figures would help the cause in raising awareness of maternal health, rather than hinder it.
Got Mother's Milk?
If more mothers breastfed their babies for the first sixth months of life, it would save about 1,000 lives and billions of dollars a year, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers said 911 lives are lost each year for preventable reasons because of a lack of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health groups say breastfeeding exclusively is best for infants in the first six months of life. Seventy-seven percent of moms start out breastfeeding, but that number drops to 33 percent who are still breastfeeding exclusively at three months and just 14 percent at six months. The deaths associated with not breastfeeding were caused by SIDS, pneumonia and necrotizing enterocolitis, a death of the lining of the intestines.
Watch Baby's Weight in the Womb
There's been a lot of focus lately on efforts to curb childhood obesity focusing on elementary school kids and older, but growing evidence suggests that a child's propensity for obesity might be set up a lot earlier than that -- perhaps even in the womb. Research has shown that kids whose moms smoke while pregnant are more likely to be obese later, even though they're often born smaller. Babies who don't get a lot of sleep or who grow really quickly early in life may also be heavier later on. And though one in 10 children under the age of 2 is overweight, doctors are hesitant to label such a young child as fat or to seek to put a toddler on a diet. The main advice for preventing obesity in kids from the start is for overweight moms to lose weight before they get pregnant and to breastfeed.