Category Archives: Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women Don’t Need To ‘Eat For Two’, Says Study

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The common misconception that pregnant mothers need to eat more to supply for the child’s development has been debunked by a recent study.

According to a group of international researchers, the digestive system of the mother adjusts to the presence of the baby, allowing for increased absorption of energy even with the same amount of food intake.

The study, published in the eLife journal, investigated the fruit fly as a model for human anatomy. Study co-author Dr. Jake Jacobson of the Clinical Sciences Centre of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in London explained that the biology inside the body of a fruit fly is similar to humans. “Many of the fly genes that we studied exist in humans. Flies also utilize and store fat like we do, and their metabolism is controlled by similar hormones,” Jacobson said in a news release. Results of the study may also explain the reason why many women find it difficult to get rid of excess weight after pregnancy.

Through the study, a newly discovered hormone — called “juvenile hormone” — commands the digestive system to prepare for the growth of an additional human being in the mother’s body. This particular hormone was found to alter the metabolism of fat in the body. “This research points to a new scientific explanation why eating for two during pregnancy is not necessary, and may even be harmful, as a growing body of evidence indicates that a mother’s diet can impact a child’s propensity to be obese in later life,” said MRC population and systems medicine chief Dr. Joe McNamara.


Pregnancy & Fertility

Obese Teenagers At Higher Risk Of Unwanted Pregnancy, Says Study

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Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System discovered a link between teenage obesity and unplanned pregnancies. Study lead author Tammy Chang expressed the importance of identifying factors that heighten the risk of unwanted pregnancies in adolescents. “Our findings suggest that obesity may be an important factor associated with adolescent women’s sexual behavior,” Chang said in a news release.

The study looked into roughly 900 adolescent women between 18 and 19 years old who were asked about their sexual practices and assessed for their weight. According to the results of the study, obese teenagers have a higher tendency to get pregnant before reaching adulthood.

The researchers believe that their study is a very important tool to understand why teenage pregnancy is on the rise. “Reducing adolescent pregnancy is a national public health priority and we need to understand which adolescents are at higher risk of pregnancy,” Change said. In addition, obesity needs to be investigated due to its impact on bearing children. “Understanding sexual behaviors by weight status among adolescents is critical because of the risk of dangerous outcomes for moms and babies associated with obesity,” the study lead author added.

Complete details of the study were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

[ Image from Gaulsstin via Flickr ]


Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Lower Asthma Risk In Infants Linked To High-Fiber Intake Of Mothers

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A recent study from Australia’s Monash University revealed that children born from mothers who ate lots of fiber during their pregnancy had lower risk of asthma.

Study lead author Dr. Alison Thorburn, who works at the university’s Department of Immunology, and her team of researchers conducted tests on pregnant lab mice who were made to eat either of three diets with varying amounts of fiber. The offspring were made to grow into adult mice and then exposed to dust mites to assess their propensity for asthma, as reported in a news item.

The results were clear as day: mice born from mothers fed with high fiber had no symptoms of asthma. In contrast, those whose mothers had low fiber in their diets exhibited asthma indications. “High fiber… suppresses expression of certain genes in the mouse fetal lung linked to both human asthma and mouse AAD (allergic airway disease). Thus, diet acting on the gut microbiota profoundly influences airway responses, and may represent an approach to prevent asthma, including during pregnancy,” the researchers noted in the study published in Nature Communications.

The researchers also tested the theory on humans by assessing the diets of 40 pregnant women and checking their blood for metabolites. Results showed that women who followed a high-fiber diet while pregnant were found with anti-asthma metabolites in their bloodstream. It was also discovered that their children were at least two times less likely to be brought to the doctor for respiratory concerns during the first year.


Pregnancy & Fertility

Choosing Where To Give Birth Could Be Critical For Low-Risk Pregnancies

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Expectant mothers with low-risk pregnancies may not be 100 percent free from complications, as a recent study suggests.

A new research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that one of the most important decisions for any pregnant mother is the place where she is going to deliver the baby. A group of doctors and professors discussed the importance of choosing the right medical facility for delivery. “Determining appropriate sites of care for any type of medical issue assumes successful matching of patient risks to facility capabilities and resources. In obstetrics, predicting patients who will have a need for additional resources beyond routine obstetric and neonatal care is difficult. Women without prenatal risk factors and their newborns may experience unexpected complications during delivery or postpartum,” the researchers noted in a news item.

Data from the U.S. Natality from 2011 to 2013, encompassing about 10 million birth records, were assessed for pregnancy risk. Results revealed that about 29 percent of low-risk pregnancies still yielded a unanticipated complication that may need attention of neonatal or obstetric care. “This information is important for planning location of birth and evaluating birthing centers and hospitals for necessary resources to ensure quality care and patient safety,” the researchers added.

[Photo courtesy of J.K. Califf on Flickr]


Pregnancy & Fertility

Breast-fed Children May be at Lower Risk for Developing Leukemia

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Breast-fed children have a lower risk of developing childhood leukemia, a new study suggests.

Scientists have found that children who were breast-fed for at least six months had a 19% lower risk of the disease compared with those who were not breast-fed at all or who were breast-fed for shorter periods of time. The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

However, the study — based on data from 18 studies that involved about 28,000 children, including roughly 10,000 who went on to develop leukemia — only showed an association between breastfeeding and not a cause and effect relationship. More research is required to confirm the link and explain the biological mechanisms involved.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breast-feed their children for at least six months, saying it lowers the risk of infections, allergies and sudden infant death syndrome, among other things.

“There is so much research supporting the health benefits of breast milk,” said the lead author of the new study, Efrat L. Amitay, of the University of Haifa School of Public Health in Israel. “It contains antibodies, natural killer cells and all kinds of active, live substances that can’t be produced in a factory.”

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Pregnancy & Fertility

Carrying A Male Child Leads To Higher Risk of Gestational Diabetes, Says Study

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A comprehensive study spanning four years worth of data suggests that diabetes during pregnancy is usually linked to having a male child.

The cohort study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked into close to 643,000 women who gave birth to their first child in the time frame between April 2000 and March 2010 in Ontario, Canada. Results showed a link between the child’s sex and the mother’s likelihood for diabetes during pregnancy, according to a news report. “Our findings suggest a male fetus leads to greater pregnancy-associated metabolic changes than a female fetus does,” said study co-author Dr. Baiju Shah. The researchers declare this discovery as a breakthrough, especially on the premise that “the baby can help us better understand the health of the mother, and can help us predict her risks for future diseases.”

In addition, mothers who delivered a boy as their first child were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes even after the pregnancy.

Although gestational diabetes develops from various metabolic changes associated with pregnancy, the study suggests that the gender of the baby may have a significant impact on the mother’s health.


Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards Pregnancy & Fertility

New Research Says Alcohol May Affect Fetuses Even Before Women Know They’re Pregnant

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New research has found that there may be a risk to fetuses by mothers who drink prior to learning they are pregnant.

The research has found that in mice, drinking alcohol within even the first three weeks of pregnancy may create changes in the genes of the embryo that can result in permanent damage.

Although the research only pertains to mice thus far, it could have implications for humans, as well. The researchers suggest that women consider cutting out alcohol from their lives as soon as they make a decision to try and get pregnant or if they remotely suspect they are pregnant.

“Our findings suggest that alcohol can harm fetus in early pregnancy, a time period when women are often not aware of their pregnancy,” Dr. Nina Kaminen-Ahola, a biologist at the University of Helsinki and the study’s lead author, said. “Therefore, it would be good to decrease the alcohol consumption as soon as one plans to have a baby.”

At this point, it’s still too early to say how much alcohol consumption it would take to harm a human fetus during early pregnancy, and more research is needed in order to provide specific guidelines.

In the study, the researchers fed alcohol to female mice who were at a stage of pregnancy that is equivalent to three to four weeks of human pregnancy. They found that the mice pups exhibited symptoms similar to human fetal alcohol syndrome, including hyperactivity, decreased growth rate and structural changes to the face and skull.

The damage occurred because early exposure to alcohol created changes in the embryo’s epigenome — the set of chemical compounds that regulate the genome — which led to alterations in the expression of genes in the brains of the infant mice. These changes were observed in the hippocampus, a brain region associated with learning, memory and emotion that is known to be heavily affected by alcohol. Researchers also found changes in the bone marrow of the infant mice, and in some tissue within the mouse’s snout that plays a role in the sense of smell.

Because early pregnancy is a critical time for cell division and differentiation, the embryo is vulnerable to external influences at this stage, and any changes can become widespread because the cells are rapidly dividing.



Pregnancy & Fertility

Federal Government to Insurance Companies: Contraceptives Are Part Of Female Coverage

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In an updated statement related to the Affordable Care Act, the federal government emphasized the inclusion of FDA-approved contraceptives in the healthcare coverage.

An updated FAQ about the implementation of the federal health care act said that “all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” are included in the provisions of the act. All contraceptives may be recommended by a health care provider. The statement further stipulates that “plans and issuers must cover without cost sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods… that the FDA has identified for women in its current Birth Control Guide.”

Several women’s groups expressed their joy and support for the policy statement of the federal government, according to a news release. “It is past time for insurers to adhere to the law and stop telling women that their chosen method isn’t covered or that they must pay for it,” said Gretchen Borchelt, who works as vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “Insurance companies have been breaking the law and, today, the Obama Administration underscored that it will not tolerate these violations.”

In addition to this, the policy statement also tells insurance companies to cover testing for BRCA gene mutation, which is a known precursor to certain aggressive cancers.


Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Mothers Who Just Gave Birth May Prevent Smoking Relapse By Breastfeeding

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Women who quit smoking during pregnancy may find themselves going back to the bad habit after giving birth. However, a new study suggests that breastfeeding may prevent this itch to light up a smoke.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York looked into smoking behaviors of pregnant women from the time they were pregnant to months after delivering the child. Although many of the mothers quit smoking during pregnancy, about two-thirds of them relapsed within 3 months after giving birth, while 90 percent of them were found to return to smoking within 6 months.

The study proponents believe that smoking should not be part of the mother’s lifestyle habits even after childbirth. “Increase in tobacco consumption after the birth of a child may have harmful effects on both the mother, and the infant who is at higher risk of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke,” said study co-author Shannon Shisler in a news release.

Upon assessment of data on maternal activities and smoking habits, the researchers found out that women who engaged in breastfeeding for a minimum of 90 days smoked significantly less frequently than those who did not breastfeed their children. “Breastfeeding seems to be a protective factor against increases in smoking after childbirth, so interventions should educate women about breastfeeding to maximize effectiveness. Supporting women through at least 3 months of breastfeeding may have long-term benefits in terms of smoking reduction,” Shisler added.

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Addiction Pregnancy & Fertility Substance Abuse

Newark, Delaware Opens Group Home for Pregnant Offenders

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A group home in Newark, Delaware houses pregnant, drug addicted offenders so they can give birth while in custody and bond with their babies after they are born.

New Expectations was created by the DOC and its healthcare provider, Connections Community Support Programs, as an alternative to detention in prison facilities, where a pregnant woman would be given a 24-hour leave to have her baby at a hospital before being put back into prison and having the baby given to relatives or put into foster care.

At the home, mother can be sentenced to stay there for the duration of her pregnancy plus up to six months after birth to allow for that critical post-birth mother-baby bonding before she has to go back to a regular prison.

State Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe said the criminal justice system struggles with how to handle pregnant female offenders who use drugs and he wanted to have a better way of handling it.

“The more I learned about it, the more I thought in my mind, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’” he said. “How do we help these ladies? How can we meet their needs without sending them to prison?”

The facility has been open since November and has room for up to 17 women and their children.

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