This unbelievable story will touch your heart: Jenna Gassew and Dan Haley, a young couple living in Pennsylvania, is making sure their unborn son gets to experience a bucket list of fun adventures before his birth on October 12. The reason? Their baby was diagnosed with an incurable birth defect, one that lowers his chances of survival.
After slipping on some black ice two months into her pregnancy, Gassew went to the doctor’s office, where she found out her baby had anencephaly, a rare birth defect where a baby is born without parts of the front brain and skull; CDC statistics list 1 in 4,859 babies as being born with anencephaly each year. The young mom and dad learned about the diagnosis two days before their fourth wedding anniversary.
Even with the probability that their baby would die shortly after birth, Gassew and Haley decided against an abortion and relied on the strength of their Catholic faith. They set out to create a list of things and places they wanted Shane to experience.
Along the way, friends, family, and readers who have been touched by the couple’s journey have showed tremendous support (the page currently has over 97,000 likes) and posted encouraging messages. Responding to the outpouring of love, Gassew and Hale wrote, “We are truly blessed and forever grateful! Shane will be here in a little over a month and we can’t wait to meet him, but it’s quite clear that he has already had an enormously positive impact on the lives of so many people, and that is a miracle all in itself.”
“We would love more children if God saw fit to give us more, I just want to make sure that I am ready to catch a baby if that would happen,” Michelle Duggar says in tonight’s episode, as she goes to see Dr. Paul Wendel, an ob-gyn in Little Rock, Arkansas, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.
At 47, if Michelle were to get pregnant again, it would be considered a high-risk pregnancy as the risk of birth defects and complications rise with age. Her doctor says getting pregnant at her age isn’t impossible (just look at Halle Berry!), but “very unusual.” “As we age, your chance of getting pregnant naturally begins to drop. And in the mid-40s it drops to less than 5 percent.”
He also shared that if Michelle were to get pregnant the chances of having a child with down syndrome would be high. (At age 47, the risk is as high as 1 in 4. In comparison, at age 24 the rate is 1 in 2,000.) Of course, this isn’t new news to Michelle, who has had six children since turning 36.
While Michelle would love to have another baby, she says she will be able to come to terms with not having any more children—if it should come to that. “If I am in that season of life where we’re not able to have any more, then I’m fine, I ‘m happy with that,” she says in the clip. “But if there are things physically I need to know, that I need to do, health-wise just to be ready to catch a baby if God saw fit to give us one.”
If you’ve been preparing to get pregnant or are pregnant, chances are you have been beat over the head by doctors, books, and even this blog with the importance of folic acid to your baby’s development. And with good reason! Taking folic acid, a B9 vitamin, can prevent spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the brain, spine or spinal cord. Even though it is so important, a new study out of England that looked at 500,000 women, showed that only about one-third of women who had babies actually took folic acid supplements before getting pregnant. So in an effort to prevent babies from developing these sorts of birth defects, England’s government is close to making it mandatory for all food manufacturers to add folic acid to white bread. This effort could prevent an estimated 300 babies per year from developing spina bifida and other birth defects.
While saving babies of course sounds like a good thing, there’s still debate about fortifying flour with folic acid because it could lead to what some are calling “mass medicating,” and there is evidence that even though adding folic acid would be helping pregnant women and their babies, it could be harmful to others. It may mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly, which can seriously damage the nervous system, and it may be linked to bowel cancer.
Though it is not yet a done deal, health minister Earl Howe has hinted that the government will be making flour fortification mandatory. On average in England and Wales there are 13 pregnancies terminated every week due to neural tube defects and three live births with spina bifida and other conditions, two thirds of which tragedies could be avoided by fortification, which the US has been doing since 1998 (who knew?).
TELL US: Do you think the UK’s government should step in and add folic acid to bread to prevent birth defects even if it puts other people’s health at risk?
In January, I posted about how England had come up with a plan to curb Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by selling pregnancy tests in pub bathrooms—with the thought being that given the opportunity, a woman who thought she might be pregnant would take the pregnancy test before she went ahead with a night of boozing, and therefore could prevent causing alcohol-related disorders in her future baby if she was in fact pregnant. Now, a senator in Alaska is wanting to take things one step further by using taxpayer’s money to supply free pregnancy tests in bathrooms of all the bars and restaurants in his state.
Republican senator Pete Kelly from Fairbanks got the idea after getting involved with an organization called Empowering Hope, whose mission is to eliminate Fetal Alcohol Syndrome from Alaska.
According to Alaska Dispatch, senator Kelly explained that “the pregnancy test assumes the best of us. If you know (you’re pregnant), you’ll make the right decision.” When asked about whether he’d also thought about making condoms readily available, he said no, because the message the state would be sending would be different. Instead of encouraging people to make a good decision, he said free condoms send the message, “’Here, use this, because you are not going to control yourself.’”
I don’t agree with that philosophy AT ALL. If your goal is protect unborn children from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I think if you’re going to give out pregnancy tests, why not give out condoms that could potentially prevent women who are drinking from getting pregnant in the first place?
Drinking while pregnant is a huge issue, and one worth talking about again and again because it’s been proven that drinking during pregnancy can cause miscarriages, premature births, and fetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to low birth weights, birth defects and learning and behavioral disorders.
A respected study from 2012 shows that as little as two drinks a week in the first trimester can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage. Of course, you might be thinking, “I had a few drinks before I found out I was pregnant and everything is still fine with my baby,” but once you know, why risk anything bad happening to your baby over the craving for a glass of wine? I know I can wait the nine months!
I’m sure people will have a lot to say about whether these pregnancy tests should be government funded (is that what you’d want your tax money going towards?), but I’m not opposed to pregnancy tests being accessible in bars. As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, having these tests in public bathrooms will probably contribute to even longer bathroom lines. (Is that faint line really a line? Let me do it again! You know what I’m talking about!) But I think having to hold it a little longer is worth it if it means someone finds out they’re pregnant and chooses not to drink that night. Don’t you?
There’s new hope for moms who have mitochondrial defects that could potentially cause everything from muscular dystrophy, respiratory problems, blindness, organ failure and stroke in their newborns. A new in vitro fertilization technique, known as mitochondrial transfer procedure, combines the nuclear genes from a mother’s egg (that determine traits like hair and eye color) with the mitochondrial genes of a donor woman. When fertilized by the father’s sperm, it causes the baby to have three genetic parents—canceling out the defective genes. So if this new procedure can help make healthier babies, why is it so controversial?
A federal committee that advises the Food and Drug Administration listened to two days of hearings about how the procedure could help birth healthy children (referred to as 3-parent babies), but the concern is that it becomes a slippery slope of human gene manipulation. Once you start manipulating genes, things could be taken even further. If you want a baby with blue eyes, red hair, and tan skin, you can have it! Want a taller, smarter, stronger baby? You can make that happen too! Like a sci-fi movie brought to life.
As reported by CNN, medical ethicist Art Caplan said the same technology could be used to modify an embryo to make “super babies,” a practice he said amounted to “eugenics.”
“The big issue over the next five to 10 years is going to become how far do we go in pursuit of the perfect baby,” said Caplan. “Do I think we’re going down that road? Yes. Does it creep me out? Yes. Are you going to be able to draw a clear line? I don’t think so.”
So the question is: Is this amazing new technology that should be embraced, or feared, and how far is too far? Should women with mitochondrial defects be forced to have unhealthy babies, or be forced to adopt or use other women’s eggs completely in order to have a healthy child? Or is it ok to use a procedure like this as long as the health of the child is the main objective? But who is to say some people wouldn’t think a smarter baby is a healthier baby? A more attractive baby equals a more successful human in the long run (remember the piece I wrote about models and actresses now being the most in-demand egg donors?)? I don’t want to deny anyone a healthy baby, but it does beg the question: where do we draw the line?
TELL US: Do you think gene manipulation is a good—or dangerous—thing?