Archive for the 'Pregnant' Category

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Hilary Duff Is Pregnant!

Lizzie McGuire is all grown up! The beautiful Hilary Duff and her cute hockey player husband Mike Comrie are expecting their first child together this February. Hillary announced her pregnancy on an October 14th appearance on The Ellen Show, stating, “”I haven’t told anyone yet. I wanted to tell you first. I just found out.” As to the baby’s gender? “It’s a boy! I had a feeling it was a boy the whole time,” she gushed to Ellen. We are so excited for the sweet couple, who also just celebrated their first year of marriage.

Throughout her pregnancy, Hilary has been staying healthy and in shape with lots of work out sessions, and looking cute in the process. On November 2nd, she was spotted leaving the gym in cute ankle length leggings, and a V-neck tee. The tee was cut extra-long to provide plenty of coverage for her growing baby bump. For a similar look, pair Maternal America’s Maternity Leggings with Shade Maternity’s Baby Tee. Comfy and stretchy, one will feel and look great throughout one’s workout. The following day, Hilary sported a similarly comfortable look while rushing through JFK Airport. She highlights her baby bump in a cute long-sleeve white tee, black stovepipes, ankle booties, and a cozy black scarf. By sticking to classic colors and shapes, she looks both chic and comfortable. We love how she layered a striped tank underneath the white tee to provide extra length and coverage!

Hilary transitions easily from day to night, as she showed us this Monday at the Hollywood launch of The Beauty Book for Brain Cancer. She rocked a sequined, citrus-hued mini dress that showed off her curves beautifully. Pairing it with gold jewelry and nude pumps created a perfectly modern look, and her long, soft waves of hair contrasted the tightness of the dress perfectly. Congratulations to the happy couple!

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.

Bryce Dallas Howard and husband Seth Gabel will have baby 2 shortly!

Congratulations to the stunning Bryce Dallas Howard and her handsome husband Seth Gabel on their second pregnancy! In just a few short weeks, their four year old son Theo will be joined by a new baby brother or sister. We love Bryce, not only for her phenomenal acting skills but also for her candidness in discussing her struggles with post-partum depression. We could not be happier for the lovely family!

Bryce’s stunning red hair and porcelain skin are gorgeous, and we love how she has chosen to play up her beautiful features with a plethora of colors. Not shying away from any color, she chooses bold hues that truly make a statement. From deep blues to bright pinks to rich greens, the colors she chooses exude happiness and confidence. No matter what one’s coloring, adding bold and rich hues to one’s wardrobe is an excellent way to pep up one’s maternity wardrobe. This past June, Bryce rocked a gorgeous pink gown at the MTV Movie Awards. The flowing fabric in shades of pink was stunning, and the rope belt created a flattering empire waist. We also love the confidence Bryce exuded in her marigold gown that she recently wore on the red carpet. Paired with her deep red hair, the golden hue has an autumn feel. The empire-waist emphasis fits her baby bump beautifully, while her clean and simple styling really lets the dress shine.

No matter what one’s coloring, adding bold hues to one’s maternity wardrobe is stylish and truly exudes confidence. It can be added in subtle ways, such as a sapphire colored t-shirt or a deep red scarf. If one wants to be a bit bolder, try a pair of purple skinny jeans paired with a white tank or an emerald green cocktail dress. Congratulations to the Howard-Gabel family!

Is Jennifer Aniston Pregnant?

Jennifer Aniston, pregnant? Tongues are wagging after Jennifer’s appearance Monday evening at Elle’s 18th Annual Women in Hollywood Tribute. Wearing a gorgeous silver mini-dress, the slightest hint of a bump showed beneath the sequins. Although nothing has been confirmed by her or her reps, we are hoping that the bump is indeed a little bundle of joy! Jennifer recently moved in with her boyfriend, the dark and handsome Justin Theroux, and with the love one sees between them we would not be surprised if they decided they were ready to add a baby to the family.

Jennifer’s style is always impeccable, and we are sure her maternity style would be just as effortlessly fashionable. She manages to have a beach-goddess, hip city girl look all combined in one. By combining her softly curled hair with a black studded jacket, she expertly mixes softness and hardness. If Jennifer is pregnant, (fingers crossed!) we know we would love her maternity style. For running errands around New York City, we could see her rocking a great pair of boot cut jeans, a classic white tee, and a short, fitted blazer. 1 in the Oven’s InvisiBelly Maternity Jeans paired with Shade’s Maternity Baby Tee would work perfectly for her, and are great versatile options. Pairing it with a black blazer and black espadrilles or boots would complete this look, and stay true to her style.

Jennifer loves to show off her gorgeous legs, and this is easily a look she can wear during pregnancy. For a date night with Justin, or a fun night out with her BFF’s, we think a short dressed paired with some funky black heels is a must. Olian’s ¾ Sleeve Animal Print Dress is sexy and classic, with the funky leopard print making a statement and the black trim bringing the whole look together. Jennifer can style it with her trade-mark soft waves, a chunky gold watch, and her favorite pair of black heels. We hope that the little bump we saw is indeed an indication that Jennifer is pregnant!

Pregnant Tori Spelling

With just one more week to go before her due date, we know Tori Spelling and hubby Dean McDermott must be so excited for the arrival of the newest addition to their family! Throughout her pregnancy, Tori has looked chic and stylish while still being comfortable and relaxed. One of her pregnancy staples has been the maxi dress, in which Tori has looked truly stunning! Maxi dresses are a great idea for pregnancy, as they combine style and comfort in one. Just this week, Tori was spotted shopping for Halloween decoration in a beautiful, floral printed maxi dress. Its modified sweetheart neckline and empire waist flattered her baby bump. She wore hers with a sleeveless lace blouse, but with fall in full swing one can pair it with a great cozy cardigan. For a similar look in a beautiful autumn orange, try Maternal America’s Strapless Dress/Skirt. This maxi, which can also be worn as a skirt, looks great with a brown or white cardigan and brown strappy sandals.

We also love Tori’s use of color throughout her pregnancy. She chooses vibrant hues that exude happiness. At the end of August Tori was spotted with her adorable children wearing a loose fitting, ¾ length sleeve, deep blue dress. The vibrant blue fabric compliments her skin tone beautifully while making a statement. With autumn here, a ¾ length sleeve transitions perfectly from warmer to cooler weather. If you like Tori’s look, Maternal America’s Front Tie Keyhole Dress is similar with a rich, blue hue and those ever versatile ¾ length sleeves. For fall, pair it with tights and flat boots or ballet flats.

We are so excited for the impending arrival of Tori and Dean’s third child! Congratulations to the happy couple and we look forward to seeing the newest addition to their family.

Woman, 61, gives birth to own grandson in Chicago

By Deborah L. Shelton of the Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Almost 39 weeks ago, Kristine Casey set out on an unusual journey to help her daughter and answer a spiritual calling.

Her goal was achieved when she gave birth to her own grandson at age 61.

Casey, possibly the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois, was a surrogate for her daughter, Sara Connell, who had been trying for years to have a baby. Connell and her husband, Bill, are the biological parents of the child Casey carried, which grew from an embryo created from the Chicago couple’s egg and sperm.

Crying and praying, Connell and her mother held hands as Finnean Lee Connell was delivered by cesarean section at 9:47 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9.

When the baby let out a cry, “I lost it,” said Sara Connell, the first family member to hold him.

The doctor who delivered Finnean said there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowded operating room.

“The surgery itself was uncomplicated, and the emotional context of this delivery was so profound,” said Dr. Susan Gerber, obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Childbirth remains a rare event for post-menopausal women, but the number of such births has risen in recent years because of wider use of in vitro fertilization and other technologies. According to state health department records, the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois was 58 when she had her baby in 2006. But data on births after 2008 are not yet available.

Older women face greater risks during pregnancy and delivery, and experts say many women would not be good candidates.

“It’s going to be more risky for somebody who’s got underlying conditions,” said Dr. Alan Peaceman, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of Casey’s doctors. “Because of that, we recommend that patients have a cardiac evaluation.”

The Connells decided in 2004 to try to have a baby, but Sara, now 35, soon discovered she wasn’t ovulating. After undergoing infertility treatment at the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Evanston, she got pregnant but delivered stillborn twins, and later she had a miscarriage.

Casey’s previous three pregnancies — her last was 30 years ago — went smoothly, resulting in three daughters. After Casey retired in 2007, she filled her time walking, meditating, taking classes and socializing with friends. But she felt she had a deeper calling.

“At the beginning of 2009,” she said, “I decided for once in my life to take some time to think about my life and find something that seemed right for me — where there was no pressure to do a specific thing.”

During a visit to Chicago — she lives in Virginia — Casey participated in a workshop led by Connell, a life coach, writer and lecturer on women’s empowerment. In one class exercise, she used pictures cut from a magazine to create a collage depicting a life’s goal. One picture grabbed her attention: an ostrich with an expression of wonder and joy.

Casey wanted to experience the exuberance captured in the picture.

Around the same time, a walking partner mentioned a story she had read about a post-menopausal woman who gave birth.

“I thought, ‘Wow, three of the happiest days of my life were giving birth to my daughters,’ and I thought I could choose to do this for someone I love,” Casey said.

Casey later wrote a letter to the Connells offering to be Sara’s surrogate.

“I found something that would make me feel like that ostrich,” she wrote. “What do you think of this?”

She suggested that they forget about it if they found the idea repulsive.

“I won’t do this just to make me happy because, believe me, I could find other things to do,” she remembers writing, laughing at the recollection. At the time, she was 10 years past menopause.

Several months later, the family discussed the idea with experts at the Reproductive Medicine Institute, where they had sought help six years earlier. The couple said they had considered adoption but preferred to have a biological child.

“The idea of having a family member being open to doing this for us was so extraordinary for us,” Sara Connell said.

Bill Connell said he appreciated his mother-in-law’s offer, though he didn’t think it was doable at first. Any further reservations evaporated when he saw she was serious, he added.

“I just wanted to make sure the science was there,” he said. “I didn’t want us to subject ourselves to another very risky, possibly devastating, scenario. Infertility is one thing, but putting your mother-in-law in danger kicks it up to another level altogether.”

At first, Casey’s husband also wondered if it was even possible for his wife to have a baby in her 60s. Then he worried that a pregnancy could jeopardize her health or even her life. But he set aside most of his concerns after she cleared medical tests and doctors gave a thumbs-up.

“What made the difference for me was when Kris said it was a calling from deep within herself,” Bill Casey said. “You can’t get any more compelling than that.”

Casey underwent multiple tests to evaluate her medical and psychological health, as required by Illinois law on surrogate births. The family also drew up a mandatory legal agreement.

The risks of genetic abnormalities were low because Connell’s egg would be the one fertilized. But if any such issues were detected later, Casey said she and the Connells agreed that she would carry the baby to term regardless.

Then she took hormones to prepare her uterus for pregnancy. She got pregnant on the second cycle of in vitro fertilization with an embryo transfer.

“If you give the uterus hormones, it will act like a young uterus,” said Dr. Carolyn Coulam, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Institute. Coulam’s oldest patient was in her late 60s at the time she had a baby. She lived in another state.

“It usually is a function of the age of the egg, not the uterus, whether or not the pregnancy will be successful,” Coulam said.

Still, some fertility programs have age limits for gestational surrogates. At the University of Chicago Medical Center, the upper limit is 55, said Dr. David Cohen, chief of reproductive medicine.

“The issue comes up because as a woman gets older, the risks she takes in pregnancy clearly go up — everything from high blood pressure and diabetes to premature delivery and infant death,” Cohen said. “So one has to be clear about what those risks are.”

The medical center evaluates cases involving older surrogates in an ethics consultation.

“It’s not written in stone,” Cohen said. “One is left with deciding each case individually, and those decisions are made after a very serious discussion with everybody involved. I personally would not throw stones at somebody who decided to go ahead in this situation as long as she clearly understood her risks.”

Peaceman described Casey’s health as excellent throughout her pregnancy, but he emphasized: “It takes a significant commitment to be a surrogate in any circumstance. To take on this type of physical burden at this age is not anything anybody should take lightly.”

After her C-section, Casey had a complication with her kidneys.

“After delivery, her urine output was lower than we expected and there was no discernible cause,” Gerber said. “We wanted to be extra careful, given her age, so we gave her close attention. With relatively little intervention, it turned around.”

Josephine Johnston, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, had no ethical objections to the idea of a 61-year-old having a baby, as long as she had undergone a thorough medical and psychological evaluation.

“It seems like an unquestionably loving and generous thing for a family member to do,” she said.

“It’s a great story to tell the child,” Johnston added. “It’s one of those situations where outsiders might wonder if it’s OK or healthy. But the experience of that child and his family will be that it’s good. . . . If they treat it as good, it will be experienced that way.”

Casey, who has a quick wit and laid-back manner, plans to return to her Virginia home with her husband in about two weeks, where she is ready to adopt a more conventional grandmother role. Finnean is her first grandchild.

“From the very beginning, the moment I’ve wanted is the moment the baby is in their arms,” she said at her daughter and son-in-law’s home weeks before the birth. “I’ve been clear since after my third child that I didn’t need to have any more children, and as much as I will be delighted to be a grandmother, I don’t want to take a baby home.”

Sara Connell said she was grateful for her mother’s loving, generous spirit and what she called “her special gift.”

“It grew beyond the two of us having a child,” Connell said. “It was about the closeness with my mother, and our family having this experience that was unique and special.”

Sex while pregnant is generally safe

 

Research has shown that having sex while pregnant is generally safe.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study showed that there are few complications involved in the practice.

Using current evidence, the team from Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto explained that the uncommon, but potential, risks involved in sex in pregnancy include premature labour, pelvic inflammatory disease, haemorrhage in placenta previa and blood clots.

Dr Clare Jones and her co-authors wrote: “Sex in pregnancy is normal.

“There are very few proven contraindications and risks to intercourse in low-risk pregnancies, and therefore these patients should be reassured.

“In pregnancies complicated by placenta previa or an increased risk of preterm labour, the evidence to support abstinence is lacking, but it is a reasonable benign recommendation given the theoretical catastrophic consequences.”

They concluded that comfort level and readiness to engage in sexual activity should be used as guides by the couple involved.

Home For The Holidays

MASSILLON, OH — There’s nothing like being home for the holidays.

Just ask Vince and Amie Spicocchi.

The Massillon couple will spend their first holiday with all of their children – including quintuplets Amie gave birth to by Cesarean in August – under one roof.

“It’s going to be fun,” Vince said.

“The only difference is we are not going to be leaving the house,” Amie added. “We normally visit Vince’s family on Christmas Eve and then my family on Christmas Day.”

Instead, a small gathering of family will join the Spicocchis at their home on Christmas Day to celebrate the babies’ first Christmas.

“This is the first time we are under the same roof for a holiday,” Vince said. “For Thanksgiving, Paige and Enzo were still in the hospital.”

Born nearly four months early at 24 weeks and three days, the quintuplets – Ilah, Paige, Enzo, Ellie and Gia – remained at Akron Children’s Hospital for the first few months of their life. Amie’s due date was Nov. 20.

In singles and pairs, the babies began coming home: Gia was the first on Nov. 10. Her sisters Ilah and Ellie followed on Nov. 12, Paige on Nov. 26, and finally Enzo on Nov. 29.

“I think they are growing very well,” said Amie, now a mother of seven, including the quints and 14-year-old Taylor and 5-year-old Grady. “(Doctors) are very happy with how they have gained (weight).”

Ellie weighs in at 10.1 pounds, followed by Enzo at 9.13 pounds, and the three girls each weigh 9.3 pounds.

“Their weight has been increasing since the time they were discharged,” Vince said. “They are doing what they are suppose to be doing.”

Considering they are multiples and were born premature, the Spicocchis say their babies are doing remarkably well, but they know they are not out of the woods.

“People don’t realize they were only given a 10 percent chance of making it when we found out (we were pregnant with quints),” Vince said. “Here we are now eight or nine months later, not only are they all here but they are doing well. You are humbled by that.”

“People talk about miracles,” Amie said. “The fact that all five of them were delivered is truly a miracle and we don’t take that for granted.”

Vince said the day the babies were born, doctors gave them a 50 percent survival rate.

“We’ve already beaten the odds,” Vince said.

“You are thankful for that each day,” Amie added.

A healthy, happy home

Keeping the babies healthy is of utmost importance.

To that end, house rules have been posted at the front door – the most important keeping hands washed and clean, and not allowing visitors who are sick or who live with someone who is sick.

Other rules: Don’t knock on the door – five babies are sleeping. No unannounced visitors. And no perfume around the babies.

Ellie, her parents say, appears to be coming down with what could be a cold.

“Something like that could knock them down,” Vince said. “You don’t want to introduce any unnecessary germs.”

A helping hand

Juggling five babies is no easy task, and the Spicocchis rely on family and friends to help keep the babies fed and happy.

The babies are fed seven times a day – that’s 35 bottles and about 50 diapers each day.

“The dietitian recently said we could skip one feeding, so we are skipping the 4:30 a.m. feeding,” Amie said.

Vince’s father and stepmother help with the 1:30 a.m. feeding.

“Sometimes it is just us and sometimes there is a person for each baby,” Vince said. “If we have two people show up, it makes it pretty easy.”

Even with extra sets of hands, it takes about an hour to feed all five babies.

“It’s kind of like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’” Vince said noting once you finish changing, feeding and putting the babies to sleep, it is time to start all over.

The couple is sleeping in shifts, Vince said, joking he sometimes gets out of the 1:30 a.m. feeding if he has to work the next day. Vince is a Massillon firefighter and works a 24-hour shift.

“I try to get a good night sleep (before a shift),” he said.

To give their volunteers a break, they have enlisted the services of PINK – Postpartum Infant Nurturing Kare.

The Jackson Township-based group, Amie said, is not well-known in the area but travels out of state to provide their services.

PINK offers infant assistance for a seven-hour period one to two times a week.

“It gives us a chance to hang out with the other kids or to get some sleep,” Vince said. “They specialize in premature babies and multiples. It gives everyone a break so we don’t overtax our volunteers.”

‘Actual age’

While the quintuplets were born nearly five months ago – on Aug. 3 – doctors still consider them only four weeks old – their adjusted age based on Amie’s due date.

“Their age right now is four and half months but they don’t go by their actual age,” Vince explained. “They look at their level (based on their adjusted age) of around four weeks.

“They are preemie babies and they are still within in the normal range (for size) and are doing normal things. They act just like newborns.”

Adjusting to nine

All the preparation for bringing the babies home paid off, Vince said.

But one thing the couple wasn’t prepared for is the planning it takes just to make doctor visits.

“We’ve only had to take all five (at the same time) once,” he said. “But we really had to plan it out. You need one person inside (the doctor’s office), one person in the car and one person to carry them (into the office).”

After a little trial and error, Vince was able to fit all five of the babies’ car seats in their vehicle, but that only leaves room for two passengers – it doesn’t fit the entire family of nine.

Starting to smile

The couple said people visiting their home are surprised by how calm the environment is with five babies.

“They expect it to be a zoo and it can be,” Vince said.

“There are times when it is pretty crazy,” Amie said.

“It’s amazing how normal they are,” Vince said. “They are starting to smile.”

“It’s reassuring,” Amie said.

Amie and Vince continue to be thankful for the generosity of their family and friends and complete strangers.

“We want to thank everybody who has helped us,” Vince said. “The support from people we don’t know who send us cards and well wishes and donations. It’s overwhelming the support.”

 

Teen Birthrate Hits Record Low

By Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer

The rate at which U.S. women are having babies continued to fall between 2008 and 2009, federal officials reported Tuesday, pushing the teen birthrate to a record low and prompting a debate about whether the drop was caused by the recession, an increased focus on encouraging abstinence, more adolescents using birth control or a combination of those factors.

The birthrate among U.S. girls ages 15 to 19 fell from 41.5 to 39.1 births per 1,000 teens – a 6 percent drop to the lowest rate in the nearly 70 years the federal government has been collecting reliable data, according to a preliminary analysis of the latest statistics.

“The decline in teen births is really quite amazing,” said Brady E. Hamilton of the National Center for Health Statistics, who helped perform the analysis.

The decrease marked the second year in a row that the birthrate among teens fell, meaning it has dropped for 16 out of the past 18 years. The 8 percent two-year decline strengthens hopes that an alarming 5 percent increase over the preceding two years was an aberration.

“Just in time for the holidays, a steep decline in teen birth has been announced,” said Sarah Brown of the Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies. “We now are, thankfully, back on track.”

The reason for the record low remains unclear, but some experts attributed it to the recession, noting that the overall fertility rate as well as the total number of births in the United States fell a second straight year in 2009 as well.

“I would not have guessed that teenagers would be most responsive to the economic downturn, but maybe we need to revise our stereotypes,” said Samuel Preston, a professor of demography at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brown and others agreed:

“When money is very tight, all of us think harder about taking risks, expanding our families, taking on new responsibilities,” Brown said. “Now, I know that teens may not be as savvy about money as those in their 20s and 30s – they probably don’t stress over 401 (k)s like the rest of us – but many teens live with financially stressed adults, and they see neighbors and older friends losing jobs and even losing houses. So they, too, feel the squeeze and may be reacting to it by being more prudent. . . . Maybe part of tightening our belts includes keeping our zippers closed, too!”

That fits with research released in the spring by the Pew Research Center, which found that states hit hardest by the recession experienced the biggest drops in births.

“Our evidence definitely suggested there was a link between the economic circumstances and what was going on with fertility,” said Gretchen Livingston, a Pew senior researcher. “I suspect that’s what we’re seeing with these lower numbers. This fits with the historical picture as well.”

Others suggested that the intense concern about the 2005 to 2007 increases and the attention it generated–including Bristol Palin’s campaign against teen pregnancy, MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” series and Washington’s birth control-vs-abstinence debate – may have gotten through to teens. Some data, for example, indicate that use of birth-control pills and other forms of contraception among teen girls is increasing.

“Although the data are preliminary, it looks like improved contraceptive use is again driving the decline in teen birthrates,” said John Santelli of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The general fertility rate fell from 68.6 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 44 to 66.7 in 2009, and the total number of births fell from 4,247,694 to 4,131,019, That direction appears to be continuing into 2010, according to early statistics collected between January and June. The overall drop pushed the fertility rate to about 2.01, a 4 percent decrease from 2008.

That is the largest decline since 1973, and it put the total fertility rate below the level needed to sustain the size of the population for the second year after being above the replacement rate in 2006 and 2007 for the first time in 35 years.

The birthrate for women in their early 20s fell 7 percent, which is the largest decline for this age group since 1973, according to the report. The rates also fell for women in their late 20s and 30s, although it continued to increase for women in their early 40s.

The rise in teen pregnancies had triggered an intense debate about whether increased funding for sex-education programs that focus on encouraging abstinence may be playing a role. As a result, proponents of abstinence education welcomed the new data, saying they exonerated their approach.

“These trends show that the risk-avoidance message of abstinence has ‘sticking power’ for young people,” said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association. “This latest evidence shows that teen behaviors increasingly mirror the skills they are taught in a successful abstinence education program.”

Huber and others noted that the Obama administration has significantly reduced funding for abstinence-focused programs.

“With a change in policy away from abstinence education, we may expect to see a reversal of the teen pregnancy birthrate in the years to come,” said Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council.

But critics of abstinence programs, who argue that the approach does not work, attributed the drop to the recession.

“We certainly don’t want recession to be the most effective form of birth control in the U.S.,” said James Wagoner of Advocates for Youth. “We still need structural reforms in sex education, contraceptive access and pragmatic public policies to ensure a long-term decline in the teen birthrate – during good economic times as well as bad.”

The Obama administration has launched a $110 million teen pregnancy prevention effort that will support a range of programs, including those that teach about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception and others that focus primarily on encouraging teens to delay sex.

Autism More Likely in Kids Whose Moms Live Near Freeways

Having a mother who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway while pregnant doubles a child’s odds of having autism.

The finding comes from a study looking at environmental factors that might play a role in autism. University of Southern California researcher Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, and colleagues collected data from 304 California children with confirmed autism and from 259 children who developed normally.

“It has been estimated that 11% of the U.S. population lives within 100 meters [328 feet] of a four-lane highway, so a causal link to autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders would have broad public health implications,” the researchers note.

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is suspected of a wide range of negative effects on the fetus. A particularly crucial period may be the third trimester, when the brain develops rapidly.

Air pollution is particularly heavy within a thousand feet of a highway. Volk and colleagues found that the 10% of women who lived closest to a freeway during pregnancy were within about 1,000 feet of center line. Children born to these women were 86% more likely to have autism than kids born to women who lived farther from the freeway.

The relationship was stronger for women who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway during their third trimester. Children born to these women were 2.2 times more likely to have autism.

Interestingly, the odds of autism remained unchanged when the researchers controlled for factors such as child gender or ethnicity, household education, maternal age, and maternal smoking.

It’s becoming clear that a child’s genetic inheritance has a lot to do with whether that child has autism. But genes do not explain why one child develops autism while another does not. Many researchers believe that something or a combination of things in the environment trigger autism in genetically susceptible kids. That exposure may come while the child is still in the womb.

But what is it about living near a freeway that might trigger autism? Is it really air pollution? Or could it be the noise?

Volk and colleagues note that their findings should be confirmed in studies that measure the actual air pollutants to which pregnant women living near freeways are exposed.

The Volk study appears in the Dec. 16 online issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.