Archive for the 'Pregnancy Health' Category

Diet matters for a Healthy Pregnancy

A recent study led by Englund-Ögge with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Institute of Clinical Sciences at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gottenburg, Sweden showed the diet was very important for a healthy pregnancy and for lowering the risk of a preterm birth. Dr. Linda Englund-Ögge told Reuters Health in an email.

“Diet really matters when it comes to preterm delivery and it is very important for pregnant women to choose or to increase the intake of an overall healthy diet consisting of fresh and raw vegetables, fruit, whole-grain products, certain fish and to drink water.”

In recent years there has been more interest and more research done concerning maternal diet how it affects the risk of preterm delivery. In this study 66,000 Norwegian women participated between 2002-2008 to study the effects of diet and maternal health. Those who had a “Prudent Diet” consisting of cooked vegetables, salad, onion/leek/garlic, fruit and berries, nuts, vegetables oils, water as a beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry and fiber-rich bread had the lowest instance of preterm birth. Those with a “Western Diet” which included more salty snacks, sweets and chocolates, French fries, white bread, ketchup, sugar-sweetened drinks, pasta and processed meat products had a much higher instance of preterm birth.

There were a total of 3,505 preterm deliveries. The researchers found that women who adhered most closely to the Prudent Diet were 11 percent less likely to have preterm deliveries compared to women who didn’t follow the diet as closely.

“We would like for doctors, midwives and all others who work with pregnant women to reinforce the important message that pregnant women should be encouraged to eat a balanced and healthy diet,” Englund-Ögge said.

“There are modifiable risk factors that people can address to enhance their pregnancy outcomes,” Dr. Louis Muglia told Reuters Health.

Based on this study, he said, a balanced diet with more foods rich in vitamins and other micronutrients probably facilitates a full-term pregnancy. Additionally women that followed the prudent diet were also more likely to have other beneficial lifestyle habits which would contribute to good pregnancy outcomes. These women were more likely to maintain a healthier weight, smoked less and avoided alcohol.

“So I think there are a lot of things that go along with that prudent lifestyle that increases the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy and reduces the likelihood of a preterm birth as well,” Muglia said.

This research is helpful in relying the message that we assumed for years, that as expecting moms we can positively affect our developing baby’s health by eating healthy foods during pregnancy and following a healthy lifestyle. The research noted that even the women in the “Prudent Diet” category did indulge in Western eatting from time to time and did indulge in sweets sometimes as well, but it’s the overall diet pattern that mattered the most. This is good news for all of us as it’s impossible to be perfect in pregnancy or anytime!

Walking is as good as Running, maybe Better

New research out by the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that walking is one of the best things you can do for your body, sometimes even better than running. This is good news for many expecting women and new mothers who are looking for a form of exercise that is safe and easy to do with their constantly changing bodies.

The study showed that while walking can be less vigorous than running, if you expend the same energy walking as you did running (this means you would have to walk vigorously and for a longer period of time than you would run for the same effect), you could potentially affect even more positive health changes than running for reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, diabetes risk and cardiovascular heart disease. In fact, the more you walk, the greater the benefit.

For many pregnant women, running is no longer a safe or comfortable exercise option as ligaments are loser during pregnancy along with increased weight and a shifting center of gravity which throws off balance. Running is also not doable for most women postpartum as your body is still healing and vigorous exercise in general is not recommended in the early weeks and even months following delivery. Running is particularly unadvisable for nursing moms who may suddenly have a heavy milk supply and a fuller chest. Tight sports bras are not a good choice as they can cause clogged ducts and mastitis. Walking, however, is an excellent way to ease back into exercise without hurting yourself while also allowing you some bonding time with your baby outdoors. Pushing a stroller while walking gives you the added strength and cardio workout that is even better exercise than walking alone.

The study noted that to achieve the full benefits walking you need to clock in 10,000 steps a day. The good news is that these steps can be spread over the course of the day and you will probably find many of your day to day chores, errands and daily activities can expend up to half of that step requirement. However, if you are not used to walking this much, you should start slowly and gradually build up to this amount as you are safely able to do so. Also, make sure you invest in a good pair of walking or cross training shoes with adequate support for your joints to lessen the impact. Proper athletic shoes will help you avoid injury and comfortably walk further. (Please note that 10,000 steps of vigorous walking while pregnant should only be done with your doctor’s ok, and not for those who are early weeks postpartum.)

Pregnancy is a great time to make positive changes in your health and fitness routines for life. You will need the stamina not only for labor when you deliver your baby in the coming months but also for caring for your newborn which can be a marathon in itself. So if you are not on bed rest and you are in good enough health to slip on your walking shoes, look into clocking a few more steps into your daily routine. Also don’t forget to hydrate frequently and avoid getting overheated by taking breaks as needed. Happy walking!

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.

Lifestyle Factors you can Change to avoid Miscarriage

Obviously during pregnancy, the last thing you want to worry or even think about is a miscarriage. I know for me it was almost a feeling that if you don’t think it, it won’t happen, just stay positive, right? Obviously stress is something that you want to lesson to make your pregnancy journey safer and better overall. However, there are times I believe reliable information about what we fear, may actually be helpful and allow us to be more empowered to make better health and lifestyle decisions during our pregnancy. This is why I would like to share some research by scientists in Denmark recently published in International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on miscarriage and how we can avoid it.

In this study it was determined that miscarriages during pregnancy could be lowered by as much as 25% by modifying or avoiding high risk behaviors duing pregnancy. These risk factors included factors including lack of exercise or too vigorous (or risky) exercise, too much alcohol consumption, smoking(at all), drinking coffee, overtime and evening work schedules, regular heavy lifting, weight gain, and advanced maternal age. Of course if you are already pregnant and at an “advanced maternal age” there’s not much you can modify about that factor but there are plenty of other risk factors we can affect in our lifestyle to reduce our risks and improve our pregnancy health and our baby’s health.

Apparently weight was an important factor for pregnancy viability and pregnancy health as well as the baby’s health. If you were overweight before you were pregnant then you do not need to gain the recommended 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. You can gain far less but you will need to be extra vigilant about healthy calories so that your baby (and you) get the nutrients you need. Talk to your doctor about your weight and do not avoid the subject or wait for them to bring it up. New research shows that doctors in the United States are less likely to bring up a pregnant woman’s weight gain if she is gaining too much than they did in previous years. Obviously it is not always a popular subject and one that is often the last thing mentioned before the end of the visit if at all. As a result of less emphasis on our weight gain and pregnancy diet, our pregnancy obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years and this factor is affecting rates of healthy pregnancies overall. These health risks include stillbirth rates, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), gestational diabetes (leading to higher weight babies and childhood obesity), more complications during labor and delivery and a harder time losing the weight after pregnancy. Instaed of feeling guilty, we need to address the problem directly with our doctor and admit if we are having problems with our pregnancy weight and ask for help.

As a mom of three I understand the problems with weight gain during pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness with all three of my babies yet I gained more than the recommended weight with my first two pregnancies, particularly the first. It seemed high carbs and sugars were the only thing my body could keep down or that seemed appealing whenever the sickness would subside. Even though I stayed active during my pregnancies it seems that food choices and quantities would really drive my weight gain more than I could offset those calories with exercise. I also admit that I was guilty of over indulging in sweets as all my forgiving stretchy pregnancy clothes seemed to hide the extra pound or two that was rapidly creeping on. On the other side, you definitely do want to gain enough weight if you are underweight or not gaining enough to support your pregancy and development of your baby. It is a delicate balance and seems unfair that pregnancy is a time we should need to worry about our weight at all. My recommendation is to be proactive in talking to your doctor and even getting a dietician referral if you have any difficulties or questions with your weight. It is never too late to be proactive about your pregnancy health.

Obviously exercise is good for us during pregnancy and promotes a healthy pregnancy, so it is important to keep a regular safe exercise regime that your doctor approves and to be flexible in adjusting your routine during each stage of your pregnancy. Pay attention to your body and make sure you are not over straining it by lifting too heavy of a weight (and this includes childcare routines where children 40 pounds or more are lifted and carried). Also make sure that you hydrate regularly as your body requires more water and you may need to take more frequent breaks, particularly if you feel you are overheating or your heart rate is too high. If an exercise involves more balance, like tennis, be extra careful as your center of gravity is constantly shifting and your ligaments and tendons are looser during pregnancy. This is maybe a time to just “practice” a safe sport and not compete if you are the competitive type!

If you smoke, then pregnancy is an excellent time, reason and motivation to quit.Alcohol and coffee consumption have long been a hot topic in pregnancy circles. Although some doctors say a small amount of alcohol or caffeine is OK during pregnancy, no one seems to know exactly how much is OK. If you want to err on the safe side it is probably best to tee-total on both alcohol and caffeine or at least to strongly limit your intake. You will have plenty of time to enjoy a cocktail or two as well as extra mochas in years to come. There are always other options to choose from for beverage choices such as an alcohol free beer or decaf latte or tea.

Work schedules and stress are not always easy factors to control. One major way to reduce the risk of miscarriage is to pay attention to our physical and emotional stress level and get the sleep we need. The study did find that night and overtime schedules increased women’s health risks during pregnancy as well as heavy lifting jobs. If these factors are a issue for you then you might want to check out your company’s pregnancy, health and maternity leave policies as there may be allowances for you to alter your high risk job demands during pregnancy, especially with your doctor’s permission. Sometimes you can work directly with your manager to work out a flex-time schedule or work at home schedule that allows you to take more rest. Or, you may need a doctor’s note to excuse you from certain tasks, such as heavy lifting on the job, or to get an early maternity leave. If you cannot, then you may need to re-assess if the job and its hours and determine if it is worth the risk of your pregnancy health.

Pregnancy is a time to be selfish about your health and your baby’s health and not a time to be “tough” about taking on undo physical and emotional challenges that could challenge you and your baby’s health. Your body is making a baby which takes a huge amount of energy and strength and affects not only your hormone levels but your physical abilities and needs. You will need more sleep as well as better nutrition, and more friendly work hours. Do not be afraid to speak up for what you need at home or at work, even if you feel like a wimp asking for extra time off or permission to get out of a physically demanding job. You can make it up when you are not making a baby. As everyone knows, pregnancy is not for wimps!

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.

Oreos are More Addictive than Drugs

Did you ever find yourself opening a new package of Oreo Cookies just to find that you simply could not stop eatting them? One to two Oreos turned into 5-6 and then some and the desire to eat more just increased? Well turns out you are not alone and it turns out there is good scientific data out there to explain why.

A new study by students at Connecticut College found that when rats ate Oreo cookies they activiated more neurons in the rats’ brain (in their pleasure centers) than hard addictive drugs such as cocaine or morphine.

Neuroscience Professor Joseph Schroeder said in in a school press release, “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do.” He continued, “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

Jamie Honohun, the student behind the research, said she was interested in exploring how foods with high fat and sugar content contritube to obesity that in prevalent in low-income communities. She concluded that the risk was higher because of there low price point.

“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability, said Jamie Honohun.

I’m sure if they did a study on pregnant rats, they would probably find an even higher correlation to addiction to sugar cravings as many pregnant women do once they get past the throws of morning sickness.

On a more comical note, the study did find that the Oreo lab rats would break open the cookie and “eat the middle first” much like we do.

Stay Away from BPA during Pregnancy

As if we don’t have enough to be worried about during pregnancy, we now have new research to reinforce a suspected health danger, BPA. In pregnancy, exposure to high levels of the BPA chemical may increase risk of miscarriage based on findings from a recent study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

This study found that pregnant women who had the highest levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, in their blood were more likely to miscarry (by 80%) than pregnant women with low levels of BPA.

BPA is commonly used in food packaging and it also used to line cans to prevent corrosion. Even more concerning it is found in plastic baby bottles as well as tableware and food storage containers.

Researchers refer to BPA as a “hormone disrupting chemical” which links to reproductive problems including obesity, diabetes and neurodevelopmental delays. All the more reason to be more cautious with your exposure to BPA during pregnancy.

The BPA chemical is currently banned in Canada and the European Union. The United States banned it from baby bottles and sippy cups last July 2010 but has rejected ban of the chemical altogether.

Small levels of exposure to BPA are reported to be safe and the study has not confirmed causality of BPA exposure to miscarriage as there may be other risk factors involved. However the findings are convincing enough that pregnant women should be extra vigilant about BPA exposure.

To be on the safe side, parents should discard plastic bottles and sippy cups acquired earlier than July 2012 as they were made before the BPA ban on these products. Be sure to throw out plastic bottles that have scratches as they may contain bacteria which increases the release of BPA. Also, limit your children’s exposure to BPA products including the plastic food storage containers with BPA that are used for children’s meals.

Is Seafood Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Once you’re pregnant, everything you do in your life that affects your health needs to be examined closer to ensure the healthy development of your baby. Nutritional needs top the charts with increased attention to your diet which may be further complicated by morning sickness which, for some women, can last the entire nine months of pregnancy.

It comes as no surprise that lean protein is an optimal source of nutrition for anyone’s diet, but especially an expecting mom. In terms of calories per portion, seafood such as fish, particularly of the salmon variety which packs in those important fatty acids with low calories per portion can be a great choice. However, many pregnant women steer clear from seafood altogether with all the news we hear about mercury levels being dangerously high and a risk for the health of a developing fetus.

While some seafood may be best to avoid during pregnancy, it is not a great idea to cut out seafood altogether as they contain many nutrients that are vital to our baby’s health and development. As the saying goes don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. In the same notion don’t throw all the fish out of your diet with the worries of mercury and contamination, but do choose wisely. There are plenty of great seafood choices that are very beneficial to our developing fetus’ health as well as our own.

For starters, omega-3 fatty acids aid in brain development and provide high levels of lean protein. Fish can serve as a powerful weapon against birth defects when choosing the low mercury varieties such as salmon, sardines, haddock and cod. Seafood which is high in mercury which you should avoid during pregnancy include shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish. In moderation, tuna is not a problem as long as you avoid the albacore and blufin varieties and limit your consumption to a few servings a month.

It is also a good idea to steer clear of fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers that can carry high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs which could travel to the placenta and affect the development of the fetus. So do be cautious when eating fish from local lakes and rivers.

Raw shellfish and uncooked sushi are also seafood choices you should postpone during pregnancy. Also, make sure that cooked mussels, clams and oysters are actually cooked all the way through so that salmonella is not a threat. Pathogens such as salmonella are destroyed through cooking, otherwise they can cause severe food poisoning in pregnancy and may cross the placenta to the fetus as well.

It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the mercury and food poisoning cautions and simply avoid seafood altogether during pregnancy, but this would be a disservice to your developing baby and yourself as there are so many benefits to safe seafood choices, such as salmon for dinner. Seafood during pregnancy can be a very healthy choice, just choose wisely and space out your seafood meals and portion sizes for moderation.

More Dangers To Smoking During Pregnancy

If you were looking for new inspiration for better health habits during pregnancy, the latest research on smoking during pregnancy should give you plenty of motivation to quit that habit fast. A new study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry Oct 1st suggests there is an association between tobacco smoke exposure in the womb and bipolor disorder in those offspring once they are young adults.

Researchers looked at 79 people with bipolor disorder and 654 people without the condition who were born between 1959 and 1966. People born to mothers who smoked while pregnant had twice the risk of developing bipolor disorder as young adults. Bipolor disorder is a mental illness which causes extreme mood swings. It’s symptoms are not usually noticeable until late teens to early adulthood.

This is the first study to show this connection between smoking and mental illness. Earlier studies did show that smoking contributed to other health concerns in newborns and children including low birth weight and attention problems.

We all know that smoking is bad for our health and bad for our babies health both inside and outside of the womb. We now know that it is also a concern for a child’s mental health as they mature into adulthood and beyond.

Sucking Your Child’s Pacifier Is Not A Bad Thing!

Most parents have done this on the sly, but now you can do it openly, go ahead and suck that baby pacifier that fell to the ground before popping back into your baby’s mouth. Most feel guilty for not boiling the pacifer or trashing it. However, that parental instinct to just use your own spit is really the best thing you can do for your baby . A new study tells us that this practice will actually help reduce your baby’s chance of allergies later on.

“It’s really an interesting study, because it supports the theory of the hygiene hypothesis,” said Dr. Samuel Friedlander, an allergy specialist at University Hospital in Cleveland. “It’s a theory that state that our world is too clean. The immune system is like an army, and if the army doesn’t have anything to fight – like germs – it fights allergens.”

The study showed that toddlers were less likely to develop eczema and asthma if their parents were shared by their parent as the saliva on pacifiers appeared to help promote a bacterial diversity and stimulate the child’s immune system. In the same way, babies delivered vaginally benefitted from increased exposure to bacteria in the birth canal as newborns.

Of course there are times when this practice can be detrimental to a child’s health, such as when a parent is sick, has a virus or cold sores. However for the healthy parent it appears sharing a little saliva on a pacifier or utensil may be helpful to your child’s immune system.