For years there have been the two camps of mamas-to-be: Those who want a completely natural birth, free of all drugs, and those who can’t get an epidural fast enough. Now French researchers who’ve studied pregnant mice are suggesting that there is a link between women getting an epidural during childbirth and their children developing autism.
The reason being that when you’re given an epidural, it is blocking your body’s natural release of oxytocin—which helps your uterus contract; is considered the love hormone because it helps you bond with your baby post-birth; and serves as a diuretic, reducing chloride levels. According to the Independent, chloride ions are kept deliberately high in the neurons of the fetus while developing in the womb. But in a natural birth the mother’s production of oxytocin lowers the chloride levels quickly during labor. In the pregnant mice studied, when the oxytocin was blocked similarly to what an epidural does, chloride ions continue to remain high after birth, leading to developmental brain disorders and autism.
However, the study doesn’t answer what happens when synthetic oxtytocin, called pitocin, is introduced into the system. Pitocin is usually given to a woman to help induce labor, either because she is past her due date or the doctor thinks the labor needs to be sped up in order to have a safer delivery.
Another recent study sings the praises of inducing a pregnancy (which is when a doctor gives you medicine like pitocin, or other drugs, to artificially start or speed up your contractions) as a major way to stave off the need for a C-section. Though this is contrary to a British study from two years ago that said the use of pitocin doesn’t lower the risk of a Cesarean section. Their findings stated that the use of pitocin sped up labor by about two hours, but that it did not lessen the need for a C-section or increase the number of unassisted births.
Meanwhile, an anxiety-inducing study was also recently published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, that says inducing a pregnancy can increase a child’s chance of having autism. Researchers say the method used to kick-start the labor process likely doesn’t cause the autism, but it comes from a larger underlying problem with the pregnancy. Studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism if they are born early or very small; if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling. Autism risk also goes up if a mother has diabetes or high blood pressure; is obese; is exposed to significant air pollution during pregnancy; had low levels of folic acid; or makes antibodies toxic to the fetal brain.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do? Freak out, it seems! And of course, talk to your doctor, read up as much as you can, and make informed decisions about what’s right for you. Epidural or no epidural? To induce or not to induce?
TELL US: Are you planning on having an epidural? Why or why not? If your child has autism, did you have an epidural? Please share your stories below.
As it is, childbirth is a super-scary unknown for first-time moms. Of course you want the cuddly prize at the end. But the step-by-step pain and suffering that gets you said cutie? Not so much. Not to completely freak you out, but the bad news—according to a new study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco—is that a healthy birth can actually take much longer than doctors originally thought.
Usually, OBs intervene and try to speed up labor if it doesn’t seem to be progressing in a timely manner. Often, that’s based on the length of the second stage of labor. As reported in the New York Times, anything over three hours for first-time moms, who’ve been given epidurals, is considered “abnormally long,” as is more than two hours for first timers without an epidural (Yes, getting an epidural seems to prolong birth, but doctors warn not to jump to conclusions, because longer labor could be caused by other factors that influence whether a woman chooses an epidural rather than the epidural itself).
The thing is those times used to judge what’s normal versus dangerous are based on outdated data from decades ago when fetal monitoring was pretty non-existent, medical interventions were the norm, and on average pregnant women were younger and weighed less. According to this new study that compared data from over 42,000 women who delivered children between 1976 to 2008, a normal second stage can actually be more like 5. 6 hours for first-time moms using epidurals and 3.3 hours for those without epidurals; 4.25 hours for women receiving epidurals, who’ve previously had children, and 1.35 hours for repeat moms who didn’t use an epidural. Ugh!
Before I scare you to death, there is a silver lining! If longer second labor is normal, fewer drugs, forceps, vacuums, and C-sections may be needed than previously thought. Now doctors are quick to jump the gun and want to intervene. Not without cause, though. Longer labor does mean increased risk of tearing and postpartum hemorrhage (neither of which sounds very comfortable!). But C-Sections—which are now used for about one in every three births in the US, an increase of nearly 50 percent over C-sections used in the mid-1990s—can also come with big risks for mom and baby. So even though the thought of labor taking even longer is hard to swallow, the need for fewer C-sections is something to celebrate!
TELL US: What’s your biggest childbirth fear? Would you rather have a longer birth, or a C-section? Share your experiences below.
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This is proof that a mama-to-be is a total warrior and can—and will—do anything to save her baby! While the Philippines was being ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan’s 20-foot storm surges and winds that went up to 170 miles per hour, a 21-year-old pregnant woman was swimming for her life, and that of her soon-to-be daughter’s.
Emily Ortega was in an evacuation center all by herself (her husband was away in the Philippines’ capital of Manila), when the storm flooded her city of Tacloban and the evacuation center she was staying in. The waters picked her up, but she fought back, swimming her hardest and clinging to a post so she would not be washed away and drowned like the 10,000 victims feared to be killed by the typhoon.
I can’t even imagine the panic that must have been running through her entire body. Feeling the water rising, the natural pull of it, taking her further and further from safety. What must have been running through her mind—the fears, the prayers. But she had to put that all aside to concentrate on her precious cargo, and what she needed to do to get them both to safety.
Emily managed to maneuver her way to a dilapidated airport—where her labor was assisted by military medics. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, named Bea (as a dedication to Emily’s mom, who is still missing). Baby Bea’s middle name is appropriately enough, Joy, because when she was born, survivors of the typhoon cheered. It was as if her birth was a beacon of hope, a sign of rebirth, and a start to the rebuilding that will take years for the Philippines to fully recover. More than 9 million people have been affected by the storm, according to the United Nations, and more than 660,000 have been displaced.
But in the midst of all of that devastation, Emily and her husband have their little bundle of Joy to be thankful for; their own little miracle.
If you’d like to help those in need in the Philippines, you can donate to the Salvation Army here or Unicef here.
TELL US: Do you think you would have been as strong as Emily during a typhoon? Do you have loved ones who may have been affected by the disaster in the Philippines?
Getting motivated to workout can be tough when you’re pregnant and have morning sickness, hot flashes or swollen feet; feel exhausted; or are just so big you don’t feel comfortable sitting or standing, let alone exercising. Well, here’s a really good reason to get off the couch and start moving: Canadian researchers have found that just 20-minute workouts three times a week while pregnant, leads to excelled brain development in your baby.
Researchers from the University of Montreal had 10 pregnant women exercise enough to leave them slightly short of breath at least three times a week. Some women ran, others walked, cycled or swam. Meanwhile, a second group of moms-to-be were only moderately active for around 10 minutes a week. When the babies were born, researchers measured their brain activity, and it was found that the babies whose moms worked out more had more mature brain functions than those born to moms who didn’t exercise as much.
While it’s not clear why exercise helps the unborn child’s brain, according to the Daily Mail, “it may be because it increases the oxygen supply to the baby, or it may increase production of the brain-boosting protein called BDNF.”
Pregnancy Workouts: Third Trimester Fitness
As a mom-to-be, of course you want to do anything you can to ensure your baby is happy and healthy. So giving your child a leg up intellectually is a huge bonus. But don’t forget that exercising while pregnant is also great for you. Physical activity will get your body in shape to take on the strenuous workout that is childbirth! It helps with your ability to breathe during labor and gives you the strength to push when you’re body is telling you it’s completely tapped out. Research has also shown that working out while pregnant can help prevent Gestational Diabetes and C-Section births. Plus, the more fit you are before you have the baby, the easier it is for your body to bounce back post-pregnancy.
So as tempting as it is to let yourself go during pregnancy, and eat whatever you want, and not workout, both you and your baby will be better after just a few light workouts a week. Push yourself—it’s worth it!
Rosie Pope is an amazing pregnancy concierge, fashion designer, reality star, and frequent Parents contributor. She gives great advice to pregnant women every day on what they can do to prepare for motherhood. But now the “Pregnant in Heels” star is opening up to Everything Pregnancy in the most personal way possible—talking about her ongoing struggles with infertility, which is a topic that is unfortunately still taboo.
Many women don’t want to discuss the feelings of pain, frustration and shame that come with not being able to conceive. It’s obviously a very personal choice, but Rosie and I feel that talking about it, and letting other women know that they’re not alone, is a powerful thing. Here’s my candid Q&A with Rosie, a true inspiration to women with infertility issues, as she’s the proud mom of three, and has another one on the way! She’s proof you can overcome it!
Why do you think talking about infertility and IVF is still so hush-hush? I think throughout our society there is this kind of stigma that to be a real woman you should be fertile and have babies. If we need extra help, somehow we’re less perfect or less of a person. As women, we can’t beat ourselves up about it. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about it.
Did you have infertility issues from the beginning or did you suffer from secondary infertility? I actually had a miscarriage first and it was pretty late on in the pregnancy. After that, it took about 8 or 9 months to get pregnant and then everything went smoothly. But when we were ready to try again, that’s when it became clear that I had a problem. In a nutshell, I never ovulated, and none of the doctors could figure out why. I sort of got bat around quite a lot until I got the right specialist and they discovered the reason why I’d had the late miscarriage, and the reason why I hadn’t been getting pregnant, was I had what they call a septum, which is a piece of tissue that divides the uterus, that can make it difficult for the baby to grow. So they removed that and then they hoped that everything would be fine. It wasn’t—I still couldn’t start ovulating and that’s when you get diagnosed, for me anyway, with “unexplainable infertility”. And that’s when I embarked on the journey of fertility treatments that ranged from taking oral medication to injectables and ultimately IVF.
I’m sure all of that was mentally and emotionally draining for you. Yes, you know, I always thought that because I got married young, and I started trying to have babies young, there would never be an issue. I had been told my whole life about how not to get pregnant that I never even considered, “What if you can’t get pregnant?” So it took a long time to deal with the shock and disbelief that I wasn’t getting pregnant. I blamed myself a lot in the beginning. I felt badly for my husband because there’s nothing wrong with him, and he had married me, and I couldn’t get pregnant when all my friends were getting pregnant. I was very fortunate to be in a relationship where my husband always considered us a team. It was never me by myself, which was really helpful. But you just feel really powerless.
It’s so hard when there’s nothing you can do, and every month you try and do every thing, especially when you’re the type of person I am—when you do all the research and you’ve got all the facts, like you’re supposed to be ovulating here and things are supposed to be happening, and when it’s not happening it’s very frustrating. And then for me the hardest thing was after a few rounds of IVF we actually did get pregnant, but we were pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy [one that occurs outside the womb, which can be life-threatening to the mother]. That was just so hard to finally be pregnant and then not be able to keep the baby. Having a baby is a miracle, and no matter what the modern scientific advances are, you just can’t always plan it, even if on paper it seems like it should work.
How did you and your husband get through it as a couple, when communication can shut down during such a difficult time? The thing that worked for us was humor. There’s really awkward stuff that happens on that road to getting pregnant. If you are going through IUI’s or you’re going through fertility treatment, your husband gets ushered off to a room and is given a whole bunch of porn to choose from, and then makes his sperm donation. That’s kind of weird as a wife… waiting in the waiting room while your husband does that! And everybody else waiting in that room with you is doing the same thing. I am very English and awkward about these things, so my husband would make endless jokes about the type of porn he chose and type of porn the person next to us probably chose, because it the whole scenario was just ridiculous. That humor opened up the conversation for us. If you can talk about that, you can talk about anything! That might not work for everybody, but I think whatever works for you and your relationship, you’ve got to keep doing that through the IVF process. If you really like being romantic, somehow you gotta incorporate that into your romantic life. It’s just important that you don’t stop being you as a couple because this is happening.
What’s the best advice you can give another woman going through this sort of struggle? Don’t get mad at your partner! In the early stages of it, you’re taking a medication like Clomid, to make you ovulate, and you get to the window when you’re ovulating, and you’re husband can’t get home from work early that day, or he’s sick, or has to take a work trip. I would get so angry at my husband when something like that would happen, like he was stopping me from getting pregnant. It’s not his fault. Life still has to go on.
What do you think was the key to you getting pregnant? Aside from the anatomy issues I had, I really think it was reducing my stress. I’m high strung, so for me what really helped was just diving into work and being busy. When I’m busy, I’m more relaxed because I’m distracted. And that wasn’t my tactic to start off with. I thought that I had to take it easy and focus only on getting pregnant, and that for me is a trap. It’s just too much pressure on a person.
How has your latest pregnancy compared with that of your first three children?Each one has been really different. My first was ridiculously easy, and I thought I could do this like a thousand times. My second one, after we had all those problems and finally got pregnant, it was very difficult. I was on bed rest for a pretty good portion of it. My third pregnancy was super easy. With this one, my body is kind of mad at me, and I’m just nauseous all the time!
Do you predict there will be live tweeting through this birth, like your last one? We’ll see. I recommend it! I was very distracted by it instead of just staring at the clock waiting for the birth to happen. I believe your birthing experience should be like the rest of your life. If you’re a busy Blackberry-Tweeting type like me, do that in the delivery room, If you’re not and you’re into yoga and massage, do that. You have to stay true to your personality because it’s only going to get heightened in the delivery room. So trying to make a calm environment with incense and massage for a high-strung person like me is not a good idea!
You told me your biggest fear with this birth is that you’d have the baby on the highway. Why’s that? I live in New Jersey now, but I’m delivering in New York with the doctor who has delivered all of my other babies, and each birth has been drastically quicker. My first took 26 hours; my second was 10 hours; and my third was only 4 hours! So who knows how quick this one could come out!