Category Archives: Pregnancy & Fertility

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.


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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.


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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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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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Pregnancy & Fertility

Study Investigates Risk Factors For Death of Pregnant Women

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Childbirth is as delicate to the infant as the mother, and a recent study aims to look into some of the risk factors involved in maternal deaths.

pregnant womanAccording to a research conducted by the University of Oxford’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, the risk of maternal death is aggravated by six major factors, led by medical co-morbidities. The mother’s medical condition — which may include hypertension, asthma, mental disorders, and blood-related diseases — may constitute up to 49 percent of the risk of death.

Other factors include problems from a previous pregnancy, gestational hypertension, improper use of antenatal care, substance abuse, and Indian descent.

The study was based on data from the MBRRACE Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths as well as the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS). Deaths of women in the U.K. from 2009 to 2012 were studied, along with more than 1,600 women who survived a high-risk pregnancy complication.

Study co-author Marian Knight, who works at the university’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, said that while cases of maternal deaths in the U.K. are few and far between, the importance of maternal care should not be disregarded. “The findings highlight the importance of optimal care for women with pre-existing medical problems in pregnancy. We found that uptake of antenatal care was poorer among women with medical co-morbidities which could increase adverse effects associated with these conditions. It is therefore vital that this group of women receive pre-conception counselling and extra support throughout their pregnancy,” Knight said in a news release.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Mental Health Care Essential In Pregnancy and Parenting

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It might not seem as important as physical health, but the mental condition of the mother is important during pregnancy.

parent mental health childbirth pregnancyThis was identified through several research studies highlighted in the journal The Lancet, which recently released a series of articles that emphasized the importance of mental health care for parents. Abandoning the mental health of the mother may have adverse consequences on the child.

One of the papers examined factors that increase the likelihood of prenatal anxiety, depression, and other psychological and mental disorders. Study lead author Louise Howard — who works as a professor of Women’s Mental Health at UK’s King’s College London under the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience — said that anticipation during childbirth can be a very difficult time for any parent. “The stigma around [pre] and postnatal mental illnesses can prevent people from getting the help they need. It’s important that people seek treatment promptly to prevent suffering and distress for the whole family,” Howard said in a news release.

Another study discovered a link between mental health issues of the parent and a higher risk of physical and psychological problems on the child. University of Oxford Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit chief Alan Stein said, “parents at risk of mental health disorders during or after pregnancy need to be identified early to try to prevent symptoms from affecting offspring.” Apart from the mental health of the mother, depression by the father may also affect development of the child.

Meanwhile, another research from the UK — this time from Cardiff University’s Medical Research Council Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics — suggests that giving birth may lead to extreme mental disorders on the mother. Ian Jones, study lead author, said that the field is still wide open for further research in order “to understand what triggers psychotic episodes after childbirth so that we can predict women at risk and develop treatments that are safe to be administered for mother and baby.”

The series of articles suggests that identification and intervention are crucial in preventing negative effects on the parent and child due to mental disorders.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Women Consider Pregnancy As Perfect Time To Crave Chocolate Without Guilt

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If you’re pregnant and in dire need of chocolate, you’re probably one of the expectant moms who think that eating decadent foods at this stage will make you feel less guilty.

pregnant food cravingsThat idea was revealed by a recent study by researchers from the State University of New York. Study author Natalia Orloff attempted to debunk the age-old belief that cravings exist only as part of a pregnant woman’s natural hormonal changes. Instead, she hypothesized that food cravings during pregnancy are also caused by several other factors, including cultural and psychological factors.

“Conflicting attitudes toward foods like chocolate that are perceived to be simultaneously appealing and ‘forbidden’ have recently been hypothesized to be associated with a greater likelihood of craving,” said Orloff in the study published in Frontiers in Psychology. “Evidence suggests that efforts to avoid foods that cause these conflicting feelings may have the paradoxical effect of increasing the likelihood of craving.”

Orloff said that more studies need to be conducted to understand the psychosocial factors behind a woman’s cravings when she’s with child. “These views on cravings may leave pregnant women susceptible to overconsuming high calorie foods, resulting in excess weight gain, especially for women high in restraint and those with pre-existing eating disorder symptoms.”

According to the study, women in the U.S. are culturally pounded on the importance of staying away from unhealthy foods, and that’s why many pregnant females tend to increase their cravings during pregnancy.

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Pregnancy & Fertility

Breakthrough Operation Allows Women Without Womb To Conceive

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Stemming from a concept that womb transplantation can help women conceive, a novel experiment has successfully achieved the near-impossible: allowing a woman to bear a child after a womb transplant.

womb transplant successful pregnancyThe concept of transplanting a womb was implemented by researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden over a ten-year span. The concept was initially tested on animals and then on human test subjects in 2013. Nine females diagnosed with absolute uterine factor infertility — a reproductive disorder without any known treatment — were the first people to undergo the operation of receiving a womb that is not theirs.

Tests showed that seven of the human test subjects received the organ well and experienced menstruation about two months after the operation. One of them was a Swedish female, age 36, whose womb donor was a family friend much older that she is. The woman was able to produce eggs, which were extracted for in vitro fertilization (IVF) before the transplant took place.

The baby was delivered via cesarean section at only 31 weeks due to preeclampsia, and was released from neonatal care ten days after.

Study lead author Prof. Mats Brännström emphasized the importance of their breakthrough operation. “Our success is based on more than 10 years of intensive animal research and surgical training by our team and opens up the possibility of treating many young females worldwide that suffer from uterine infertility. What is more, we have demonstrated the feasibility of live-donor uterus transplantation, even from a postmenopausal donor,” Brännström said in a news release. He also added that while two of the women experienced thrombosis and infection, the Swedish mother experienced “only one episode of mild rejection during the pregnancy that was successfully treated with corticosteroids.”

Pregnancy & Fertility

Fertility Problems May Affect Mental Health In Women

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Women who have difficulty conceiving a child have a higher risk of mental health problems if they cannot accept their infertility condition.

fertility treatmentsThis was revealed through a new study conducted by a team of researchers from the U.K.’s Cardiff University School of Psychology. Dr. Sofia Gameiro, lead study author, said that while previous studies have been conducted to link infertility issues with mental health concerns (such as this one in 2012), their study looked into additional factors that might worsen or relieve the effects.

One of the factors that the study identified was whether the women already has children or none. “The strength of this association varied according to whether women had children or not. For women with no children, those with a child-wish were 2.8 times more likely to have worse mental health than women without a child-wish… For women with children, those who sustained a child-wish were 1.5 times more likely to have worse mental health than those without a child-wish. This link between a sustained wish for children and worse mental health was irrespective of the women’s fertility diagnosis and treatment history,” Gameiro said in a news item.

In contrast, women experienced better mental conditions if the cause of infertility was either the partner male or another undetermined reason.

The study involved a survey on more than 7,000 females who underwent treatments to correct their fertility concerns from 1995 to 2000. The study proponents were quick to clarify that the link between fertility and mental health is not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.