Category Archives: Pregnancy & Fertility

Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women Who Eat Chocolate May Deliver Healthier Babies

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Expectant mothers might want to start eating chocolates in moderation to improve the development of their babies.

This seems to be the recommendation of a team of Canadian researchers who looked into the truth behind the effect of eating chocolate on pregnancy-related issues. The team, led by Emmanuel Bujold of the Université Laval Québec City, said that earlier studies revealed the increased risk of preeclampsia when pregnant women eat chocolate. Meanwhile, some other studies suggest the benefits of chocolate in ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

To investigate the topic, the researchers asked the participation of 129 women who were carrying a single child between the 11th and 14th week of gestation. The women were tested using the uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index, which identifies the blood flow in the uterus, placenta, and fetus during pregnancy. The respondents were divided into two groups: the first group was asked to eat 30 grams of chocolate with low flavanol levels, and the other was asked to eat high-flavanol chocolates. The indices were checked after 12 weeks, and monitoring was conducted up to the birth of their children.

Results showed that the uterine artery Doppler pulsatility of the mothers significantly improved from before the tests started. The findings were consistent, regardless of the amount of flavanol in the chocolates. “This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” said Bujold via a news item.

However, the researchers mentioned that their study did not include a group of pregnant women who did not eat chocolate. “We cannot speculate on the overall effect of chocolate on the risk of preeclampsia from our study results because we did not have a group of women who were not taking chocolate. However, previous epidemiological studies along with our results suggest that consumption of dark chocolate during pregnancy could help in the improvement of placental function and the reduction of preeclampsia.” Bujold added.

The study was recently presented in the Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine held in Atlanta.

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Pregnancy & Fertility

Doing Exercise While Pregnant Lowers Risk of Hypertension and Big Babies

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Pregnancy may be a delicate situation for some women, but a recent study revealed that pregnant women who engage in exercise may reduce the risk of complications associated with childbearing.

According to a new study jointly conducted by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Western University, doing exercise while pregnant lowers the risk of high blood pressure in women. In addition, the physical activity also reduces the likelihood of having oversized infants, the condition of which is clinically called fetal macrosomia. “Those oversized babies are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, like obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and/or hypertension. We really want to try and prevent those big babies because they are at risk for health issues,” said study co-author Michelle Mottola in a news release.

To get the results that they needed, the proponents of the study tapped the participation of a random group of pregnant women who were asked to follow a specific exercise program during their respective pregnancies. Results showed that pregnant women who don’t engage in exercise have a threefold likelihood of developing high blood pressure, roughly 2.5 times more susceptible to give birth to oversized babies.

Mottola said that even the simplest and easiest of exercise routines can already do wonders to the health of the mother and the child. “Many people think that you have to go to the gym and sweat – and yes, that’s true for some people – but walking will also give you great aerobic benefit. It’s very important to be physically active during pregnancy. We suggest 10,000 steps a day. If you can walk 10,000 steps a day, that’s incredible,” Mottola added.

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Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Autism Risk Increased By Antidepressant Drugs Taken By Pregnant Mothers

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Despite the numerous studies about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the growing issue has been fairly misunderstood. However, researchers continue to study the condition further, including a recent study from the University of Montreal.

In the latest research led by Prof. Anick Bérard, it was discovered that pregnant women who take antidepressants increased the risk of autism in their children. The researchers based their findings on data from more than 145,000 birth records in Canada as part of the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort.

The people involved in the pregnancy cases were followed up by the researchers for 10 years. The records were cross-checked with antidepressant use, and the researchers identified at which trimester the women took the drugs and what specific drugs they took. “Amongst all the children in the study, we then identified which children had been diagnosed with a form of autism by looking at hospital records indicating diagnosed childhood autism, atypical autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or a pervasive developmental disorder. Finally, we looked for a statistical association between the two groups, and found a very significant one: an 87% increased risk,” Bérard said in a news release.

Results showed that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) heightened the risk of ASD in children, especially when their respective mothers took this specific class of antidepressants on the second or third trimester. Berard explained a possible reason for this: “Some classes of antidepressants work by inhibiting serotonin (SSRIs and some other antidepressant classes), which will have a negative impact on the ability of the brain to fully develop and adapt in utero.”

This study puts another angle on the ongoing debates regarding antidepressant use during pregnancy, especially since roughly 10 percent of pregnant women take antidepressants.

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Pregnancy & Fertility Substance Abuse

Higher Tax on Tobacco Products Reduces Risk of Infant Death

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Several studies have already confirmed the harmful effects of smoking on infant health during a woman’s pregnancy. A new study investigated through another angle, this time assessing the impact of tobacco taxation on infant mortality.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and the Vanderbilt University, looked into data from the Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) system of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1999 and 2010.

Study lead author Dr. Stephen Patrick explained the team’s reason for focusing on a possible link between tobacco tax regulations and infant death. “Taxing cigarettes is known to help convince people to quit smoking, or not to start. This study helps physicians, public health officials and policymakers understand just how much benefit cigarette tax increases can have on infant health,” Patrick said in a news report.

Based on the results of the study, the research team was able to confirm that increasing taxation on tobacco products will result to a reduction in the number of cases of child death during pregnancy.

The team believes that the study will help push for higher tobacco taxes. “The US is doing worse than almost all other industrialized nations in infant deaths. The solution may lie in public health solutions that prevent infants from being born early in the first place – like cigarette taxes,” Patrick added.

Details of the study were published in the journal Pediatrics.

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DNA & Paternity Pregnancy & Fertility

Teens Who Live with Rules More Likely to be Cautious About Sex

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Teenagers who live in households where they have set rules to follow and whose parents keep tabs on them may be more cautious about sex, a new analysis suggests.

Researchers from the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work combined and analyzed the results of 30 studies from around the world. The studies, completed from 1984 to 2014, analyzed the effects of parental activities on children’s behavior. Specifically, researchers looked at the effects of keeping tabs on teenagers and setting rules for them. The goal of the studies was to see whether the kids of more watchful parents were more likely to skip sexual activity — defined in different ways — or use birth control.

Kids whose parents set rules and who monitored them more by knowing what they were doing and who they were with,  had sexual intercourse later in life, the researchers found. Those whose parents monitored them were also more likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control.

“When kids are sexually active, it’s less about setting clear rules and more about having a better relationship and better communication,” said said report co-author Vincent Guilamo-Ramos. “Parents really matter, and they’re influential,”  .

The researchers cautioned that their study doesn’t definitively prove that making rules for teens and monitoring them more will cut down on sexual behavior, as other factors could have also played a role.

Statistics suggest that hundreds of thousands of U.S. teens become pregnant each year, and more than 75% of the pregnancies are unplanned. Sexually transmitted disease like HIV is another risk for teens and young adults. In fact, research shows that in 2012, people aged 20 to 24 had the highest rate of new infections with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

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Medical Marijuana Pregnancy & Fertility

Is Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Harmful?

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One of the questions regarding marijuana is its safety for the person taking it. The impact of the controversial drug is especially important in people who are experiencing special health conditions, one of which is pregnancy.

The question: Is marijuana safe for women who are pregnant?

In a news statement a few weeks ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) said that cannabis use may increase the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications such as low birth weight or premature delivery. Because of this, the organization recommended proper labeling on medical and recreational marijuana, such as the following — “Warning: Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding poses potential harms.”

However, according to Forbes contributor on drug topics Jacob Sullum, other larger studies say that marijuana use has no adverse effect on the pregnant mother or the child. In his recent article, Sullum cited a statement from National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) deputy director Paul Armentano that “other studies with much larger samples in the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands likewise have found no evidence of fetal harm from marijuana exposure.” There may be other factors that need to be considered, such as the mother’s age and her smoking habits.

Studies on marijuana — particularly on its medicinal use — are still being conducted, and it might be premature to conclude the affirmative or negative at this point in time.

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Pregnancy & Fertility

Depression Linked To Chain of Health Concerns for Pregnant Women

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Some of the health risks involved in a woman’s pregnancy include gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. Although these health concerns may be traced to many factors, a recent study indicates that one possible cause is depression.

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK discovered a possible link between depression during the second trimester of pregnancy and sedentary lifestyle, which could lead to pregnancy-related health issues. The study followed more than 1,200 expectant mothers who were asked about their physical activity and emotional state. The study proponents also noted the women’s health data, as reported in a news item.

Results of the study showed that women who experienced bouts of depression became more sedentary in their daily activity. This was also linked to a greater weight gain when they reached the second trimester. In addition, women who had minimal to no physical activity were linked to a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Study lead author Nithya Sukumar stressed the importance of their study on the health of pregnant women. “Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of birth complications for the mother and baby and so it is important we minimize this risk by reducing the time that pregnant women spend sitting down,” Sukumar said.

Sedentary behavior has long been linked to various health risks, some of which include obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

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Pregnancy & Fertility

More Pregnant Women Gaining Excess Weight, Says Study

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Pregnancy is a sensitive health condition for both mother and child, and so the results of a recent study should raise concern for women who are conceiving.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via a news release, at least half of pregnant women in the country are gaining more than their recommended weights. The study, conducted by a team of CDC researchers including epidemiologist Andrea Sharma, also confirmed that only 32 percent of expectant mothers were able to maintain their weights as prescribed by their respective doctors.

“A large proportion of women enter pregnancy not at a healthy weight,” said Sharma. One of the possible reasons behind the phenomenon is a misconception in terms of the nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman. “Eating for two shouldn’t translate to eating without limits… It should translate to eating twice as healthy,” the epidemiologist said.

The study was based on data from 41 states on pregnant women in 2013, as well as pregnancy risk data recorded in 2012. Details of the study were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the health agency.

The research team emphasized the importance of proper diet especially in women who are carrying a child. “The amount of extra calories needed during pregnancy [per day] is relatively small… It’s only about an additional 340 to 450 calories in the second and third trimester only. An apple, a cup of yogurt, a handful of almonds might be about 350 calories,” Sharma added.

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Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Childbirth and Breastfeeding Linked To Lower Death Risk in Women

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Ladies, listen up: Your chances of dying from cancer and other leading causes of death may be lower if you have either given birth or engage in breastfeeding.

This was revealed through a study by researchers from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in England, via a news report. The study was carried out with close to 323,000 European women who were monitored for about 13 years. The participants were followed up in terms of their health and death.

Out of more than 4.4 percent who died within the study period, women who gave birth were found to have a lower risk of dying from cancer. The statistic improved further for those who had more two or more children, as compared to whose who had only one child. In terms of cardiovascular diseases, the likelihood of death from such a disease was lower for women who either gave birth or engaged in breastfeeding. In addition, those who delivered a baby at age 26 to 30 were found to have the lowest likelihood of death, compared to any other age group.

Study co-author Melissa Merritt attributes the link to the natural hormonal changes in a woman’s body whenever she carries a baby in her womb or breastfeeds her child. However, because the connection of childbirth and breastfeeding to lower death risk is not a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers recommend further studies to determine the impact of reproductive factors on long-term health.

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Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility Substance Abuse

Smoking While Pregnant Increases Asthma Risk of Grandchildren

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Previous studies have emphasized the adverse effects of smoking while pregnant on the health of children, but a new study goes further — by two generations.

A Swedish study discovered that a woman who smokes while she is pregnant may increase the risk of asthma on her grandchildren (i.e. the child of her child). This study is the first of its kind to investigate the effects of smoking two generations after. “We found that smoking in previous generations can influence the risk of asthma in subsequent generations,” said study co-author Dr. Caroline Lodge in a news release.

The researchers conducted a survey on close to 45,000 grandmothers whose names are listed in the Swedish Registry between 1982 and 1986. Meanwhile, the study also checked for use of asthma treatment and medication in more than 66,000 grandchildren. Results showed that kids had up to 22 percent higher risk of developing asthma if their grandmothers smoked during pregnancy. The data was applicable even though the children’s respective mothers did not engage in cigarette smoking.

The study proponents believe that smoking changes the genetic makeup of offspring, which may be carried over to subsequent generations.

The number of asthma cases has escalated quickly in the last 50 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affecting 6.8 million children in the U.S. alone.

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