Researchers behind a new study are suggesting a name change for the condition known as preeclampsia. Here’s why:
The condition, which affects pregnant women and can be deadly, may actually be caused by the fetus and not the placenta, according to an editorial in the journal Anaesthesia cited in Science Daily.
The co-author of the piece, associate professor Alicia Dennis, who is consultant anaesthetist and director of anaesthesia research at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, says the condition may be a result of problems getting adequate oxygen to the developing fetus. So she suggests changing the name of the condition to hypertension caused by pregnancy might help women better understand it, and get the info they need to manage it.
Dennis and her co-author, Julian Castro, consultant cardiologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, suggest that pregnancy proceeds without incident when a mom-to-be can maintain a continued flow of oxygen to meet the needs of the fetus as it grows and changes. And when she can’t, that’s when the problems occur.
“Referring to it as hypertension caused by pregnancy, rather than the historically out-dated name of preeclampsia, would mean that women worldwide could be better informed and counseled about the condition,” she wrote, as cited in Science Day.
“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.”
While a mom’s weight before and during pregnancy is often a hot topic (we worry about eating enough of the right things and as few of the bad things as possible), we often forget that it takes two (at least) to make a baby. So how much does the dad’s health and DNA contribute to your baby bundle? Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that obese fathers up the risk of autism in their children more so than obese moms. That’s right—the dad-to-be’s weight seems to be more of a contributing factor than the mom-to-be’s!
They studied nearly 93,000 Norwegian children at three, five and seven. The mothers answered detailed questions about their own—and their children’s—mental and physical health, while the dads completed a questionnaire about their mental and physical health while their partners were pregnant. The researchers also collected data from the Norwegian Patient Registry and from studies of children who were referred for evaluation and treatment of possible autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
The researchers adjusted for variables that may also be associated with the development of autism in the child. In addition to adjusting for maternal obesity, they considered education, age, smoking, mental disorders, hormone therapy before pregnancy, use of folic acid, maternal diabetes, preeclampsia and the baby’s weight at birth. The researchers found that the risk remained unchanged when adjusted for socio-demographic and lifestyle factors.
The findings say that maternal obesity has little association with the development of autism in the child. However, they found a doubled risk for development of autism and Asperger’s syndrome in the child if the father was obese, compared with a normal weight father. (But note, the odds are small: just under 0.3 percent of kids with obese dads were diagnosed with autism, versus 0.14 percent of kids with fathers at healthy weights.)
Doctors still don’t know why a father’s obesity could cause a higher rate of autism in his kids. There could be an indirect association with certain gene variations, or obese men might be more likely to have certain environmental exposures that contribute to autism. But there also might be a direct tie, like the extra weight might actually alter sperm quality, leading to malformations that would cause autism. More research needs to be done on the subject to find a definite cause and effect, but all signs point to the fact that both mom and dad’s health contribute to whether you’ll have a healthy baby. So if you’re trying to get pregnant, set a standing date for a couple’s workout!
TELL US: Are you surprised to hear that a dad’s weight could raise his baby’s autism risk?
If you’re like I was when I was pregnant, I was reading everything about pregnancy that I could get my hands on. It was great to be informed, but at times I thought I’d drive myself crazy trying to self-diagnose what I was feeling after reading all of the various ways pregnancies can be complicated (for the record I developed gestational diabetes but otherwise had a healthy pregnancy, and a very healthy son).
One of the big baddies is preeclampsia, a condition usually occurring after 20 weeks of pregnancy and characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, liver disease and blood-clotting abnormalities. Nearly seven million pregnant women suffer from it a year (including stars like Angelina Jolie, Faith Hill and Jennifer Lopez and rumor has it Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears had it too), and it’s the leading cause of death in pregnant women.
When a pregnant woman develops preeclampsia in the second trimester, her infant often must be delivered prematurely to avoid severe maternal complications, like stroke (similar to the eclampsia death on Downtown Abbey).
But there’s a silver lining to this Debbie Downer of a disease. To prevent the dangerous disorder, The U.S. Preventative Service Task Force is recommending 81 milligrams of low-dose aspirin daily—after 12 weeks of gestation—for pregnant women at high risk. Women are considered high risk if they’ve had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, are expecting multiples, or if they have a history of diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease.
However, the task force also recommends that expectant women with multiple moderate-risk factors may also benefit from low-dose aspirin. These risks include obesity, a family history of preeclampsia, women older than 35, and African-American women.
Research shows that “low-dose aspirin every day lowers the risk of preeclampsia by 24 percent,” says Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the co-vice chair of USPSTF. “And it lowers the risk of pre-term birth by 14 percent.”
As always, consult your doctor before taking any medicine—including over-the-counter drugs—while pregnant.
TELL US: Have you ever developed preeclampsia while pregnant? Share your story.
We all know to avoid first, second and even third-hand smoke when we’re pregnant, but according to a new study conducted at the University of Florida, air pollution may be even more harmful to pregnant women than smoking cigarettes. And guess what is one of the main pollutants to worry about? Car exhaust!
Carbon monoxide emitted from cars and sulphur dioxide from power plants can cause pregnant women to have high blood pressure, which in turn can cause pre-term delivery and other pregnancy complications. About 10 percent of pregnant women end up with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). Women with hypertension are at higher risk for placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterine wall), which is dangerous for both mom and baby because it causes severe bleeding. This usually occurs after week 20. One fourth of women who have high blood pressure develop preeclampsia, usually after about 28 weeks.
The study’s sample looked at 22,000 women who gave birth in Jacksonville, Florida, between 2004 and 2005, and examined the environmental data from their communities. Of the sample, nearly 5 percent developed a hypertensive disorder. It is thought to be due to exposure of air pollutants throughout the first and second trimesters. At this point, scientists can’t determine conclusively whether exposure early in the pregnancy or late in the pregnancy was more likely to increase a women’s risk of developing high blood pressure, but exposure during pregnancy definitely made a difference in women’s high blood pressure rates.
In another study about the effects of high blood pressure by the University of Helsinki, researchers found that kids born to mothers with high blood pressure scored an average of 4.36 points lower on IQ tests than those whose moms did not have hypertension while pregnant. According to Science Net Links, pollution can aggravate asthma and contribute to lung cancer. It can also lead to heart disease and behavioral problems in kids, and contributes to two million deaths a year.
So, while you may not be able to up and move to a less-polluted city, you can let your local government know that air pollution is an important issue for them to concentrate on—not just for the health of you and other pregnant women, but for everyone in the community.
TELL US: Are you worried about the effects of air pollution on your pregnancy? What measures will you take to avoid pollution?