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Research

  • Tylenol during Pregnancy may be linked to ADHD

    It seems there are so many rules during pregnancy that it gets very confusing about what we need to take, like Folic Acid, and what we should avoid, like alcohol, caffeine and many pain medications. Now the latest research has uncovered that many seemingly benign over the counter pain relievers, including Tylenol, that are often prescribed to pregnant women, may not be as safe as we thought.

    A new study from Demark published Monday in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics now suggests that over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen when used during pregnancy may be associated with ADHD behavioral problems in children. Although this is new research and the study authors were careful to state that “exhibiting ADHD-like behaviors” is not necessarily the same as being diagnosed with ADHD. All the same, it is cause for concern and for caution in taking medication containing acetaminophen as the active ingredient. This news is especially alarming since Tylenol has long been considered one of the safer medications pregnant women were advised to take for a fever, headache or the many aches and pains of pregnancy.

    If you have taken Tylenol during pregnancy do not panic. The study suggests that the risk is more highly associated with taking acetaminophen for long periods of time and particularly later in pregnancy. The women in the study that reported used acetaminophen pain relieving medications for 20 weeks or more had a 50% increase in requesting ADHD medication in their children later on. It is too early to assume that this is a cause and effect relationship but there is certainly enough evidence to avoid Tylenol and any medication containing acetaminophen during pregnancy if possible or at least to be very cautious in dosage and how long it is taken during pregnancy.

    This study reminds us to be extra vigilant about medications during pregnancy and to be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions about any medication. No question is a stupid question for your doctor. Also it is important to do your own research on medications in addition to consulting your doctor as studies such as this one are very new and may not have made the rounds to all the medical communities. It is also important to have these conversations with your doctor to inform them of new information that may not have been known when they were in medical school and is not yet common knowledge.

    This study is also a reminder that we cannot assume that what we did prepregnancy exercise-wise, work-wise, or medication-wise is also safe during pregnancy and nursing postpartum. Also, it is a constant re-evaluation of what is best as our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy, so nothing is static. If you are having pain issues there are many non pharmacological ways you can explore to deal with pain including massages, baths and acupuncture to name a few. While we do not want to be paranoid about everything we do, it is also better to err on the safe and conservative side during pregnancy when in doubt.

    Knowledge is power. It is important to do your own research during pregnancy and make your own informed decision about everything you decide to do. The end of day do not stress over your choices, just know you did the best you could do which is really what parenting is all about. None of us is perfect and guilt gets us nowhere, but informed decisions are the best way we can be the responsible and loving parent for our child that we all want and strive to be.

  • Our Breast Milk is Smarter than We Thought

    Just when we think we know everything healthy and nutritious and miraculous there is to know about breastfeeding and our baby’s health, we find out something new. A new study just uncovered even more amazing news about the mother’s body, it’s uncanny knowledge and ability to know our baby’s gender and produce customized milk for our baby girl or baby boy. (We already know it produced milk for the exact age of our child, be it premature or full-term, or a toddler a year or more after birth if we still nurse).

    Interestingly, a common theme in humans, monkeys and other mammals is that there are a variety of differences in the quantity and type of milk that is produced for our babies depending on their gender. Baby boys tend to get richer or denser milk which has more fat and protein in it, providing them with more energy while baby girls tend to get milk that is produced in greater quantities. (Didn’t we always say baby boys were pumped full of adrenaline and our baby girls calmly nursed forever?)

    Last Friday this research was shared at the Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. Although it is not clear why human mothers produce such different milk for their girl or boy babies, there is evidence that this customized milk is developed while the baby is still in utero. This does give mothers more reason to try and breastfeed our baby with our individualized formula which our body intelligently produces for our child.

    "Mothers are producing different biological recipes for sons and daughters," said Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

    "While the food aspects of milk to some extent are replicated in formula, the immuno factors and medicine of milk are not and the hormonal signals are not," Hende said.

    As new research continues to uncover more interesting facts about mother’s breast milk, it is clear that breastfeeding is the optimal food choice for our baby. As we continue to learn more about our body’s ability to produce the ideal milk formula for our infant, we are encouraged about how this new scientific knowledge can also help other infants who are in need of specialized breast milk and who cannot get it from their mothers.

    “Getting a better understanding of how milk is personalized for specific infants will also help hospitals find better matches for breast milk donated to help nourish sick and premature infants in neo natal units”, added Hinde.

    It’s powerful knowledge to know that you are your baby’s best nutrition source and you are your baby’s perfect biological match, not only for giving birth but for continuing to feed, nourish and nurture your unique child.

    If you are having trouble nursing, do not hesitate to ask for help. You can contact a lactation consultant or even a mother’s support group like La Leche League in your area to find the support that you need to help you nurse your baby successfully.

  • Surprise Babies are Surprisingly Common

    Although most pregnancy test news is welcome/expected/ long hoped far, not all are. In fact according to recent statistics it is estimated that almost half, 49%, of all pregnancies are unplanned in the United States.

    Most American families want two children. The average American woman spends five years pregnant, nursing and postpartum or trying to become pregnant. The next three decades she tries to avoid unintentional pregnancy. By age 45 half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and 30% will have had an abortion.

    Personally I find these statistics very surprising. We all hear about unplanned teenage pregnancy, the “bonus baby” in the family with two kids or the “miracle baby” for the mom who suddenly gets pregnant in her 40’s after adopting two babies thinking she was not biologically capable of having a child with her husband. But who knew that what seemed like the exceptional unplanned pregnancy, is actually a normal and common occurrence, even if everyone is not admitting their child, or the timing/spacing of their child, was unplanned.

    Being a mom of three children I often get the question, “was your third baby planned?” It’s usually posed by people I don’t know well or virtual strangers who believe it’s a perfectly OK benign question to ask. I suppose anytime you go over the average two kids per family, you are assumed to have a surprise baby. I am also continually amazed by how many people readily admit that their third baby was not planned and came as “on its own” or “out of nowhere.” I have yet to encounter a parent who says that they regret that surprise child or that it has not impacted their life in some positive and unexpected way although many will admit they “have their hands full” or “it took an adjustment period” to regulate their lives.

    Although we welcomed every child in our family, we did not “plan” their exact birth timing (although all were born in November somehow) and were pleasantly surprised each time the test came back with a positive blue line. There are ways to be pretty bulletproof when you are really done having children and many couples over 40 who are “sure” they want to be done, have utilized multiple methods to insure they don’t have any more additions to their brood. Sometimes I think the ones that don’t use multiple foolproof methods may not be convinced they are truly done and are leaving a small window to fate or chance to decide if another child is part of their family’s destiny.

    My advice to women everywhere who get pregnant unexpectedly and who choose to keep their baby, is to feel better knowing you are not alone in having an unplanned pregnancy and that having another child in your family can be a truly positive experience. Yes all babies are hard work and expensive, but hard work isn’t always a bad thing and you learn as you go, even when life throws you a curve ball. Half of American moms have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, although you may not hear about it. Also I would venture to guess that the majority of those moms are happy to have the surprise child (even if it was a shock initially and took a little warming up to) and grew to love them every bit as much as any “planned” children they might have had.

    Life does not always go according to plan, but wouldn’t it be boring if “The Plan” never changed and was so predictable. There is always something good than can come out of a surprise or a challenge. A miracle baby may be just what you need in your life and future.

  • Looking For A Satisfying And Healthy Pregnancy Snack? Try An Avocado!

    Avocados are one of those foods that everyone in my house can enjoy without complaining. Avocados are available and tasty year round thanks to growing in various regions including California, Florida, Mexico and Chile. My finicky 8 year old daughter will eat them sliced up any day of the week and positively gleams when she sees them on her plate, as if I slaved in the kitchen to prepare something extra special for her. As a toddler she would stuff them to her mouth so quickly that they would end up smeared all over her face and hands while perched in her highchair. We joked that her creamy smooth complexion was result of her daily avocado facial masks during mealtime.

    Avocados are one of those foods that don’t take a lot of preparation to taste good. You can slice them up for sandwiches are salads. You can puree them for a healthy smoothie or throw them in cooked dishes. Avocados are so versatile with a mild flavor and smooth texture that they compliment just about anything from chips, salad, poultry, fish or beef. Whether you are a meat-eater, fish veggie or a vegan, avocados are usually allowed on the menu.

    Odd fact – although you will usually find avocados stacked next to the vegetables in the grocery store, they are actually a fruit. Avocados are native to South and Central America. The two most common varieties are Hass and Fuerte and over 90 percent of the nation’s avocados are the Hass variety from California. Florida produces the Fuerte varieties that are larger and have more water and less fat than the Hasses.

    Avocados are a suburb healthy treat for anyone and especially good for curbing that afternoon snack attack that many pregnant women often feel in even greater force than the rest of humanity and that a carrot or celery stick just won’t satisfy (although maybe when dipped in some salty guacamole). Although a medium avocado has about 30 grams of fat, it’s mostly the monounsaturated “good fat” that boosts good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. A typical serving of avocados is about 1 ounce, which is approximately 3 slices and only 5 grams of “good” fat. Avocados are also a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that is good for the eyes.

    Popular Super Bowl Treat:

    The Hass Avocado Board estimates that over 71 million pounds of the purple-black Hass avocados will be consumed during this year’s Super Bowl parties. That equates to more than 27 feel of avocados, enough to cover an entire football field “end zone to end zone.” We can assume that most of those avocados will be consumed in the form of guacamole dip.

    The most important element in making really good guacamole is using very good, ripe avocados. To find just the right ripeness, press the outside of the avocado gently. If there is a little bit of give, then the avocado is perfectly ripe. If it is hard, it is not ready and if there is too much give, then the avocado is probably too ripe and will not taste good. If you have your “perfect” ripe avocados, all you really need is salt and lime juice (lemon juice is also good if you don’t have a lime). The other good ingredients to add are cilantro, chiles, onion and tomato. However if you are prone to morning sickness, simpler is better, just use the ingredients that don’t make you avert your ever powerful nose during pregnancy (although many pregnant women swear that spicier is better when they are expecting).

    Here’s a good recipe I found with these very ingredients which serves 2-4. Double or triple for larger servings and adjust the chiles portion of the recipe for your level of preferred spiciness.

    Prep time: 10 minutes,

    INGREDIENTS

    2 ripe avocados

    1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)

    1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced

    2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped

    1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice

    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

    A dash of freshly grated black pepper

    1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped

    Garnish with red radishes or jicama. Serve with tortilla chips.

    METHOD

    1 Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.

    2 Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. (Don't overdo it! The guacamole should be a little chunky.) Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.

    Chilling tomatoes hurts their flavor, so don't chop the tomatoes or add to the guacamole until ready to serve.

    Remember that much of this is done to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.

    3 Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

    4 Just before serving chop the tomato; add to the guacamole and mix.

    Refrigeration Tips:

    Only refrigerate ripe avocados as unripe ones will not ripen in the cold. You can store ripe avocados in the refrigerator up to 5 days. If you store too long, the flesh will darken and turn into flavorless mush.

    Pureed avocados can be stored in the freezer up to 4 months for use in dips, sauces and spreads. Make sure you place pureed avocados in an airtight container leaving about an inch of head space. Also, for better flavor add a tablespoon of lime or lemon for each avocado you blend in your blender.

    So go for that guacamole dip without guilt this Super Bowl Sunday, it’s good for you and your baby and yummy to boot!

  • Light During Pregnancy Is Important For Fetal Eye Development

    A fascinating new study of mice during pregnancy, leads evidence that pregnant humans also need light during pregnancy to aid in proper fetal eye development.

    A new study conducted by scientists from Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and recently published in the journal Nature, reveals information about the importance of sunlight during pregnancy for the eyesight of babies that are born prematurely. The study concluded that the eye, which requires light in order to see, also needs light to develop normally during pregnancy.

    Co-author Richard Lang, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center said:

    "This fundamentally changes our understanding of how the retina develops. We have identified a light-response pathway that controls the number of retinal neurons. This has downstream effects on developing vasculature in the eye and is important because several major eye diseases are vascular diseases."

    Lang collaborated with David Copenhagen, PhD, a scientist in the departments of Opthalmology and Physiology at UCSF. Mouse models were used in their study which produced surprising outcomes:

    Copenhagen commented, "Several stages of mouse eye development occur after birth. Because of this, we had always assumed that if light played a role in the development of the eye, it would also happen only after birth."

    The researchers in the current study revealed that the activation of the newly labeled light-response pathway must occur during pregnancy in order to achieve the precisely planned program that creates a normal eye. They point out that it is crucial for the right number of photons to reach the mother's body by late term pregnancy.

    The team of scientists completed several experiments using laboratory mouse models that let them look at the light-response pathway's purpose and parts. Mice were raised in darkness, and in a regular day-night cycle starting at late term pregnancy to examine the comparative outcomes on vascular progression of the eye.

    The scientists confirmed the purpose of the light response pathway by changing an opsin gene in mice known as Opn4 that creates melanopsin which stops the initiation of the photo pigment.

    The melanopsin protein is there in both humans and mice during pregnancy. The authors say they will continue to examine how the light-response pathway might impact the probability of pre-term babies developing retinopathy of prematurity and its relatedness to other eye conditions.

    So get outside and into the sunlight during your pregnancy as much as possible on a regular basis. The natural light not only helps your mood but is essential for your baby’s healthy eye development!

  • It’s Safe for Pregnant Women to Receive a Flu Shot, New Study Confirms

    You’ve probably heard how bad the flu is this year with the particularly strong strain of the H3N2 virus. People tend to be sicker for longer periods of time and with stronger symptoms than normal. Already 47 states have reported widespread cases and the number of infected are rising fast.

    “We’re seeing people, very high fever, often they’re laying down curled up, looking very unwell,” Dr. Michele Hayek reports with North Atlanta Urgent Care.

    Apart from washing your hands frequently, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the virus is to get vaccinated now. “It still offers a lot of immunity even getting it this time of the year,” Dr. Hayek says. “So, I would still definitely recommend getting a flu shot.”

    A new large study released by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday confirms that it is safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot. The research found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of losing a fetus and may prevent some deaths. Research shows that getting the flu while pregnant increases the risk if fetal death.

    "This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women," said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center.

    The new study was led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It tracked pregnancies in Norway in 2009 and 2010 during an international epidemic of a new swine flu strain.

    The study focused on more than 113,000 pregnancies. Of those, 492 ended in the death of the fetus. The researchers calculated that the risk of fetal death was nearly twice as high for women who weren't vaccinated as it was in vaccinated mothers.

    The study also showed that infants picked up protection for the virus when their mother’s were vaccinated while pregnant. Infants cannot receive the flu shot until 6 months of age, so getting early protection is a huge benefit to protecting their health.

    Influenza germs can live on a surface up to eight hours and also can be breathed in when someone coughs or sneezes and the virus is airborne.

    Doctors recommend kids scrub their hands long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Also, everyone should try to keep their hands away from their mouth, nose and eyes. Of course this is next to impossible for babies and young children, so the next best thing is to vaccinate.

    “There is a long-standing concern about giving any medicine to a pregnant woman. But this study should ease any worries about the flu shot,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "The vaccine is safe," she said.

  • New Research Supports Later Umbilical Cord Clamping

    New research on newborns suggests something we probably should have suspected all along, delay cutting the umbilical cord. Recent research reported in the March 21st 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that delaying cutting the once life-giving cord by at least two minutes results in better blood counts and improved iron levels for a baby. Current rule of thumb is to clamp the cord immediately after birth or wait thirty seconds and clamp.

    There are some objections to these studies, claiming not enough evidence is presented and more studies are needed before clinical changes are widely recommended. However, the evidence is significant enough to warrant attention and maybe change the status quo from early to late clamping for many physicians.

    There appears to be an absence of formal guidelines for most health-care practitioners. In the developed world most physicians cut the cord immediately after birth to facilitate the bonding between the mother and her newborn and to avoid possible respiratory problems. However in the developing world the timing is more variable with a greater tendency towards late clamping to counter the greater risk in anemia in those regions.

    There is also the question of banking umbilical cord blood as it can be quite costly. Some parents choose to bank the stem cells provided in the umbilical cord as they can be a match for the baby later in life should the need arise. However, only half the time is there even enough blood in the umbilical cord to allow for the banking.

    One study showed that delayed clamping lowered the risk of hemorrhage and the need for a blood transfusion. Some studies have found that even a slight delay in the cord clamping was very beneficial for preterm infants. Late clamping overall improved the blood count as well as the iron status of the babies and reduced the risk of anemia. The only negative effect was too many red blood cells, a condition medically termed polycythermia. However this condition was only temporary.

    Although the evidence for later term clamping of the umbilical cord needs more studies to be more conclusive, I believe that delayed clamping will be the trend of the future, particularly for preterm babies who are more at risk for anemia and blood transfusions. This is definitely a subject I would bring up with my physician or mid-wife if I was expecting and I would incorporate into my birth plan, particularly in the event my infant was born preterm. After all, it does seem logical and common sense to delay cutting the cord as it does not appear to pose any harm to the infant and can only help the child that needs those additional red blood cells to prevent anemia and other related health issues.

  • Abortion Rate Drops to 18 Year Low

    The pregnancy rate for women in their early 20s has fallen nearly 18% from 1990 to 2008. Additionally, the abortion rate over the same period of time has dropped by 32 percent, states the National Center for Health Statistics. The government report believes that women are deciding to delay having babies until later and using more effective birth control.

    Another report released by the Guttmacher Institute stated that based up on the government statistics, teen abortion rate was down 59% in 2008 when compared to 1988. When compared to 1990 the tean pregnancy had dropped by 42%.

    Stephanie Ventura who wrote the report, "Estimated Pregnancy Rates and Rates of Pregnancy Outcomes for the United States, 1990-2008.", for the National Center for Health Statistics stated that abortion rates have dropped across all age groups.

    Women in their 20s are waiting to get pregnant. Also, there are better birth control methods and use of condoms. Other methods include contraceptive patches that release the hormones throughout the day.

    The report stated that for all age groups in 2008, 65 out of 100 were live births, 18 abortions, and 17 were fetal loss (miscarraige). In comparison to 1990, 61 were live births, 24 abortions, and 15 ended in fetal loss.

  • New Research Shows Breastfeeding Is Tied To Lower Incidence Of Asthma

    If you are looking for one more reason to breastfeed your baby, consider the latest research on the link between breastfeeding and lower asthma rates in children. According to two new research reports, breastfeeding increases lung volume which makes babies and children less susceptible to get asthma.

    Also, this new research found that even mothers who were asthmatic still benefited their children by breastfeeding them and thus increasing their lung volume. In the past it was thought that only asthma-free moms should breastfeed. This research shows that the babies benefited from breastfeeding whether or not the mom had asthma. (It’s suspected that the babies suckling activity when breastfeeding increases it’s lung power).

    Even more significantly, these studies showed that the longer the mother exclusively breastfeed their baby, the less risk the child had of getting asthma or breathing related problems. A team led by Karen Silvers with data on more than 1000 kids found that each additional month of exclusive breastfeeding was tied to a nine percentage drop in asthma risk.

    The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively (with no formula) for the first six months of the child’s life then to continue to breastfeed (as solids are introduced) for two years or longer.

    So, here’s some more reasons to breastfeed your child (particularly exclusively breastfeeding them for the first 6 months of life). Your child will reap the benefits for a lifetime.

    SOURCES: bit.ly/yCsmfY American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, online February 3, 2012 and bit.ly/wVKRCQ Journal of Pediatrics, online January 29, 2012.

  • IVF : Less is More

    A new study by researchers at the University of Iowa found that women who had only one empbryo implanted didn't have that much lower probability of becoming pregnant than those with more than one.

    From 1980 to 2004, the rate of twins rose 70%. This, as one would expect, is most likely because of an increase use of fertility drugs and use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). In 2006, the twin rate was 32.1 twins per 1,000 births (3.2%) in the US. Interestingly, the Yoruba in West Africa has the highest twin rate at 45 to 50 per 1,000 (4.5 to 5.0%). This is thought to be because of yams which are an important part of their diet has a naturally occuring phytoestrogen causing the ovaries to release an egg from each ovary.

    IVF experts have been pushing for using few embryos, and preferably a single one, as it reduces the complications associated with multiple and premature births.

    Even still, many patients still request multiple embroyos when undergoing IVF treatment. This is inspite of knowing that a single embryo has the same chances as multiples.

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