Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
Raw milk–milk that has not been pasteurized–may carry serious health risks and should be avoided by pregnant women, infants and children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is saying in a new policy statement. More from The New York Times:
Although the sale of unpasteurized milk products is legal in 30 states, the academy says that the evidence of the benefits of pasteurization to food safety is overwhelming, and that the benefits of any elements in raw milk that are inactivated by pasteurization have not been scientifically demonstrated.
The report, published Monday in Pediatrics, notes that many species of harmful bacteria have been found in unpasteurized milk products, including Listeria, Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium, among others.
In a study published last week in Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers estimated that over the past 10 years in Minnesota, where raw milk is legally sold, more than 17 percent of those who consumed it became ill.
“There are no proven nutritional advantages of raw milk,” said a lead author, Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, the chief of neonatology at Georgia Regent University in Augusta. “Further, raw milk and milk products account for a significant proportion of food borne illnesses in Americans. There is no reason to risk consuming raw milk.”
The AAP also advises avoiding raw milk cheeses for the same reasons.
Image: Cow, via Shutterstock
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Monday, December 16th, 2013
New scientific research conducted with mice may have major implications for how fathers think about their health before planning to have a baby. The study linked nutritional deficiencies in male mice with a higher risk that their offspring would be born with birth defects. The Washington Post has more:
The findings raise concerns about dads unknowingly passing on harmful traits through molecular markers on the DNA of their sperm.
These epigenetic markers don’t change the genetic information, but rather switch parts of the genome on and off. They are susceptible to environment and diet throughout fetal development, but were thought to be wiped clean before birth. New studies, including the one published online Tuesday in Nature Communications, have revealed that some of them may survive all the way from sperm to baby.
When analyzing the sperm epigenomes of the low-nutrition mice, the researchers found abnormalities in epigenetic markers that affected genes linked to development, neurological and psychological disorders and certain cancers.
“We should be looking carefully at the way a man is living his life,” said study author and reproductive biologist Sarah Kimmins of McGill University. “Environmental exposure is remembered in the developing sperm and transmitted to offspring.”
Since it takes human males about three months to produce fully grown sperm from stem cells, Kimmins speculates that men trying to have children could try cleaning up their diets even temporarily.
“If a man has been living a bad, unhealthy lifestyle, he will not only improve his own health but the health of his offspring,” she said.
Image: Man with healthy food in shopping basket, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 6th, 2013
A federal report has found that the number of pregnancies in the United States continues to fall, a trend that has continued for decades. More from Health Day Reporter:
The rate reached a 12-year low in 2009, when there were about 102 pregnancies for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That rate is 12 percent below the 1990 rate of about 116 pregnancies per 1,000 women. Only the 1997 rate of 102 has been lower during the past 30 years, according to the report.
Experts said two factors are driving the downward trend: improved access to birth control and decisions by women to put off childbearing until later in life.
Those trends have caused the average age of pregnancy to shift upward.
Pregnancy rates for teenagers also have reached historic lows that extend across all racial and ethnic groups. Between 1990 and 2009, the pregnancy rate fell 51 percent for white and black teenagers, and 40 percent for Hispanic teenagers.
The teen birth rate dropped 39 percent between 1991 and 2009, and the teen abortion rate decreased by half during the same period.
Overall, pregnancy rates have continued to decline for women younger than 30.
“The amount of knowledge that young women have about their birth control options is very different compared to a few decades ago,” said Dr. Margaret Appleton, director of the division of obstetrics and gynecology at the Scott & White Clinic in College Station, Texas. “Birth control is more readily available to women, and they are more knowledgeable about it.”
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 6th, 2013
Though they are far from typical, male doulas–professionals who help women through pregnancy and with labor and delivery–are seen more and more at hospitals across the country, The New York Times reports:
Meet David Goldman of Bellingham, Wash., the … “dude-la”? Mr. Goldman was certified as a doula last year by DONA International, the largest accrediting body of doulas worldwide. Although the group doesn’t track how many men have completed the training, officials there are aware of just a handful of male doulas among the 8,500 birth attendants it has certified since launching two decades ago.
The scarcity of men reflects a widespread perception that the role of a doula is seen as women’s work, even among many who wouldn’t hesitate to champion egalitarianism elsewhere in the workplace. Indeed, the topic of male doulas frequently draws skepticism — and sometimes biting criticism — in online discussion groups.
Some women say the presence of another male in the delivery room would just stress them, or their husbands, out. Others say that only women who have gone through the birth experience themselves can properly serve as birth assistants. Women are also typically seen as more nurturing than men, and thus better able to fulfill the emotional requirements of a doula’s job description.
A recent thread about male doulas on the DONA Facebook page showcased the sensitivity around this issue, drawing some uncharacteristic “disrespectful commentary,” said Sunday Tortelli, the group’s president and a doula in Cleveland, with many commenters saying it just didn’t “feel right.”
But Sharon Muza, who has instructed three men in the nearly eight years she’s been training doulas, among them Mr. Goldman (the other two men went on to become midwives), said that “men can be nurturing and caring and loving and bring every quality I would want in a doula.” She also noted that men may have a physical advantage. “They’re really strong and can apply counterpressure to a woman’s back or support someone who needs to be held up. That’s a wonderful bonus.”
Image: Male nurse, holding newborn, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 5th, 2013
A rise in the number of multiples–triplets or even more–born in the U.S. is being attributed in a new study to a number of fertility treatments. Though many believe multiple births to be a result of multiple embryos being transferred during in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, attributes the phenomenon more to drugs given to women to encourage them to produce more eggs. The Associated Press has more:
Multiple births raise medical risks and hospital bills for moms and babies. Guidelines urging the use of fewer embryos were strengthened following the 2009 “Octomom” case, in which a California woman had octuplets after her doctor transferred 12 embryos made from an IVF treatment.
But most cases of infertility are treated not with IVF but simpler measures such as drugs to make the ovaries produce eggs. The first step often is a pill, Clomid, to spur hormones that aid conception. If that doesn’t work, more powerful drugs can be given in shots, but those bring a much higher risk of multiple eggs being released.
Doctors are supposed to use ultrasound and blood tests to monitor how many eggs are being produced and advise couples against trying to conceive that month if there are too many, to minimize the risk of multiple births. But that monitoring often isn’t done, or done well, and couples eager for a baby may disregard the advice.
“It’s very easy to demonize this dumb doctor who didn’t do the right thing. That may not always be the case,” said Dr. Nanette Santoro, obstetrics chief at the University of Colorado in Denver. “Frustrated people who don’t get pregnant after a couple cycles will think more is better. It’s the American way.”
The new study examined trends over several decades and finds that the rate of triplet and higher-order births peaked in 1998 and has been declining since then.
From 1998 to 2011, the estimated proportion of twin births due to IVF increased from 10 percent to 17 percent, while the proportion of triplets-and-more declined.
During the same period, the estimated proportion of triplet and bigger multiple births from non-IVF treatments such as fertility drugs increased from 36 percent to 45 percent.
Image: Infant sleepers on clothesline, via Shutterstock
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