Pregnant? Here’s One More Reason To Quit Smoking

Smoking During Pregnancy Affects Babies' Hormones and DNA Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to everything from miscarriages to low birth weight to a higher likelihood that your child will grow up with behavioral problems and respiratory infections.

Now, researchers from The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. have found yet another reason for expectant mothers (and their partners) to quit. According to a study recently published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, smoking during a pregnancy can lower stress response, cause DNA alterations for a gene that controls the passage of stress hormones from mother to baby, and decrease levels of stress hormones.

That’s not a good thing. Lower stress hormones don’t equal lower stress— in fact, it’s the opposite.

“Our results suggest that these newborns may not be mounting adequate hormonal response to daily stressors. Their stress systems may not be prepared for the stressors of daily life,” lead researcher Laura Stroud, Ph.D., of the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, said in a news release. “This may be particularly detrimental in babies born to mothers who lack resources and parenting skills and whose babies may encounter more daily stressors.”

The small study evaluated 100 newborn-mother pairs and tracked moms through their pregnancy and up through the first month of their child’s life. The researchers tested infant cortisol (a stress-related hormone) levels and found that changes in the gene that passed cortisol from mother to child were negatively affected due to smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in every 10 mothers in the U.S. smokes during the last three months of her pregnancy. If you need help kicking the habit, follow our tips to quit here.

Trying to Conceive: 5 Ways to Get Pregnant Faster
Trying to Conceive: 5 Ways to Get Pregnant Faster
Trying to Conceive: 5 Ways to Get Pregnant Faster

Photo of pregnant woman with cigarette courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Got Kids With Food Allergies? Look for Teal Pumpkins This Halloween

Teal Pumpkin ProjectTeal is the new black (or, actually, orange) when it comes trick-or-treating this season.

As the official color of food allergy awareness, the Teal Pumpkin Project was started to let moms and dads know that if they see a teal pumpkin on someone’s doorstep while trick-or-treating that the house will give out small toys instead of candy to kids with food allergies.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) picked up on the campaign this year after an allergy group in Tennessee came up with the idea last Halloween season, ABC News reports.

Instead of candy, FARE recommends giving out small items like mini slinkies, spider rings, Halloween-themed erasers or vampire fangs as fun, safe alternatives to kids with food allergies.

“We just want people to know that we’re not asking people to stop giving out candy,” one mom, Tyffani Tucker, told ABC. “We are asking them to give kids with food allergies another option so they have something they can look forward to on Halloween too.”
Teal Pumpkin2000

And if you don’t have a pumpkin at your house but want to support the cause and give out small toys along with your typical candy selection, you can download and print off a picture of a teal pumpkin to hang in a window or on a door here.

Still want your little one to have a special treat on Halloween? Take a look at the best snacks for kids with food allergies.

How to Make A Kooky Pumpkin Caterpillar
How to Make A Kooky Pumpkin Caterpillar
How to Make A Kooky Pumpkin Caterpillar

Photos courtesy of FARE

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Here’s Why Enterovirus D68 Diagnoses Are Expected to Rise…

New Test Will Increase Number of Enterovirus D68 CasesA new spike in enterovirus D68 diagnoses is expected to crop up over the next few days, but this is one that parents shouldn’t worry about, the Associated Press reports.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented a new, faster lab test that will help the agency process a backlog of cases that have accumulated since mid-September at a rate of “four to five times more specimens per day than it has been.”

That means the number of reported cases will likely increase from around 30 per day to 90 or more, according to AP.

According to a news release, this change will allow the CDC to observe “the trends of this outbreak since August and to monitor changes occurring in real time.”

Enterovirus D68 is one of over 100 kinds of non-polio enteroviruses and has infected 796 people as of Thursday, the CDC reports. While it has had a more severe outbreak than normal this season, this virus was first identified in 1962 and has been tracked by scientists since then.

To learn more about enterovirus D68, read our interview with Dr. Delaney Gracy, Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Health Fund.

When to Worry: Asthma
When to Worry: Asthma
When to Worry: Asthma

Photo of sick girl in hospital courtesy of Shutterstock.

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What Causes 40% of Pre-Term Births? Scientists May Have Found the Answer

Scientists identify potential cause for 40 per cent of pre-term birthsEach year nearly one in eight babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks) in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts them at a higher risk for a number of health issues later in life.

But now, scientists at Queen Mary University and University College London have identified the chemical chain of events that they believe causes the preterm premature rupture of the fetal membrane (PPROM)—the condition that accounts for 40 percent of all preterm births.

Published in Placenta, scientists found through testing that stretching the amniotic membrane leads to the overproduction of the hormone-like compound prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which in turn activates the protein connexin 43 (Cx43) decreasing the mechanical properties of the membrane, all of which can potentially lead to rupture and preterm birth.

This is the first study of its kind and the next step, researchers say, is to find a treatment that would actually repair the amniotic membrane.

“To have potentially found a way to reduce pre-term births and prevent early deaths of young babies worldwide is incredibly exciting,” study co-author Dr. Tina Chowdhury said in a news release. “This gives us an understanding of both the mechanical as well as biological mechanisms involved and will help us to develop therapies that will reduce the number of preterm births.”

Should your early contractions raise a red flag? Go here to learn more about premature labor.

Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies
Baby Care Basics: Concerns for Premature Babies

Photo of preemie baby courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Read This Before You Have Dinner Tonight …

Positive Family Meal Reduces Childhood ObesityWe’ve all heard about the benefits of a home-cooked meal (and likely bemoaned the amount of work and time that can take to produce), but a new study published this week in Pediatrics shows that when it comes to childhood obesity, what happens at the table may actually be more important than what’s on your child’s plate.

Researchers at  the University of Minnesota gave 120 families (about half with obese or overweight children and the other half with non-overweight children) iPads to record their meals for eight days, and they found that those families with non-overweight kids were more likely to have positive mealtime interactions.

These included what the study referred to as, “warmth, group enjoyment, and parental positive reinforcement,” while overweight children were more likely to experience a more negative mealtime experience such as “hostility, poor quality interactions, little communication and more controlling behavior from their parents,” TIME reports.

“I was surprised by how consistent the patterns were,” Jerica Berge, study co-author, told TIME. “Almost every single one of the emotional factors we coded were in the right direction, and there were really clear patterns in how much positive or negative interactions were associated with overweight and non overweight.”

The researchers also coded for a number of variables like where the meal took place (kitchen or dining room vs. family or bedroom), whether or not members of the family had some kind of screen, and also how long the meal lasted, among others. Through this they also found that for families with both obese and non-overweight children, mealtime is hardly a drawn out affair. Non-overweight children’s families typically sat down for an average of 18.2 minutes, while obese children’s families spent an average of 13.5 minutes.

It is important to note, however, that this study did not track exactly what families were eating at their meals—that will be their next study’s concentration, TIME reports. While we wait for those results, try out some of our own tried-and-true healthy dinner options for your family.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Photo of family eating dinner courtesy of Shutterstock.

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