Archive for the ‘ Pregnancy ’ Category

Must-Know 2014 Pregnancy, Parenting, Health, and Safety News

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

child in childcare centerThere’s a lot to keep up on when you’re a parent (or parent-to-be), whether you’re in that exhausted-and-expecting stage, the exhausted-because-you-have-a-newborn stage, or exhausted because you’re chasing around your active kiddos. So in case you missed it, here are some of the most noteworthy and news-worthy pregnancy, parenting, health, and safety stories we covered in 2014:

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 became law

Good news from Washington (yes, really!): Thanks to the signing of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, young kids in child care will now be safer. As Parents deputy editor Diane Debrovner wrote last month, “The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal grant program that provides child-care assistance to low-income families. The new law affects child-care centers and individuals who care for children with the support of federal funding, but all children in child care are likely to benefit from the new higher standards.”

The government took a stand on circumcision

Few topics are more hot-button that the decision parents of boys must make regarding circumcision. But earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in on the issue in a draft of guidelines, saying that medical evidence showed the procedure can reduce the risk of HIV, STDs, UTIs, and even some types of cancer. The CDC says circumcision should be covered by health insurers, but still doesn’t go so far as to flat-out recommend it to parents.

Too many babies are sleeping with unsafe bedding

A shocking study published in the January 2015 issue of Pediatrics looked at infant bedding use from 1993–2010 and found that more than half of babies fell asleep with potentially hazardous bedding. Another finding: Teen moms were most likely to use soft bedding, altough, as we noted, “the study also found a link between use of bedding and mothers who were younger in general, a minority, or not college educated.”

We’re making car-seat mistakes from the get-go

Is there a parent among us who hasn’t fretted about the car seat being installed correctly? Well, as it turns out, we’re right to be worried. A study presented in October at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 93 percent of parents make at least one major mistake (such as a too-loose harness, a too-low retainer clip, or using the wrong harness slot) before they’ve even driven away from the hospital. And in almost 70 percent of cases, there were mistakes with both the installation of the seat and how baby was positioned in it.

Enterovirus D86, ebola, and flu were—and remain—causes of concern

Three different health threats caught our attention this year: enterovirus D68, which by October had more than 650 confirmed cases, ebola, and influenza. And while, sadly, both enterovirus D68 and ebola caused a loss of life, it’s the flu that causes the most harm, killing an estimated 30,000 Americans each year and causing the hospitalization of roughly 20,000 kids under the age of 5.

The EEOC updated its rules regarding discrimination and pregnancy

Unfortunately, accusations of pregnancy discrimination seemed to abound in 2014, from the Supreme Court’s hearing of Peggy Young’s case to the woman who claims she was fired for needing to take pee breaks. But one bit of good news: for the first time in more than three decades, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, tougher rules regarding pregnancy discrimination and “related issues” (think breastfeeding and parental leave.) As we reported, one thing the EEOC made clear is that “adjustments may need to be made for pregnant workers—including providing the option of light duty.” Furthermore, employers can’t force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence when she’s capable of continuing to work.

Yet another study disputed a vaccines-autism link

As we reported last summer, a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics reviewed “a large body of scientific findings and concluded that parents should be reassured about vaccines’ safety.” The study found no causal relationship between vaccines and autism.

Scientists may have discovered the cause of 40% of pre-term births

In October, we reportde that scientists at Queen Mary University in London “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.” The findings were published in the journal Placenta. Next up—we hope: a treatment that would actually repair the membrane.

The pre-term birth rate in the U.S. is way down

In Novermber, the March of Dimes released its annual Premature Birth Report Card, which revealed that the pre-term birth rate in the United States fell to 11.4 percent—a 17-year low. Good news, to be sure, but the organization stressed that there’s still work to be done to ensure more babies are born healthy, and at term. To that end the U.S. received a “C” grade on the report because it missed the group’s stated goal of a 9.6 percent preterm birth rate.

The autism rate was lowered to 1 in 68

In March came a shocking new estimate from a CDC report that 1 in 68 kids are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The previous estimate, made two years ago, put the prevalence at 1 in 88. As our Red-Hot Parenting blogger Richard Rende, PhD., wrote, “The estimated prevalence of ASD has gone up tremendously in the last decade, and it is assumed that improved recognition and diagnosis is the primary factor. The implication here is that we have underestimated the true rate of ASD and as such the new data suggest an urgency in mobilizing resources to understand the causes and accelerate the delivery of interventions.”

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image of child in daycare: Shutterstock

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Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates May Cause Lower IQs in Children

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Pregnant women belliesDon’t be surprised if “phthalates-free” labels become more important than ever. A new study released by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City has linked the harmful chemicals to a decrease in children’s IQ, reports HealthDay News. The study was published yesterday in the science journal PLOS ONE.

The study centered on 328 mothers and children from low-income backgrounds in New York City. Researchers analyzed how the exposure to five types of phthalates during the third trimester of each woman’s pregnancy affected her children’s IQ at 7-years-old. Each woman’s urine was measured for chemicals during pregnancy, and later on, each school-age child was given an IQ test.

Results showed that children whose mothers had the highest exposure to two phthalates (DnBP and DiBP) had IQs that were at least 7 points lower than children whose mothers had lower exposure to the chemicals. The three other phthalates (BBP, DEHP, and DEP) did not seem to have any significant affects on children’s intellect.

Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly added to plastics as stabilizers. “Depending on the specific phthalate, they are used to make plastic flexible, as adhesive and as additives to cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products, as several ‘hold’ scents,” says Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., the study’s author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. According to the CPSC, paints and inks can contain phthalates. CBSNews adds that the two specific phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, can also be found in products like “vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food containers, raincoats, dryer sheets…”

Even though this study is not conclusive that pthalates are the definite cause of low intellectual development, the results add to the ongoing belief that exposure to phthalates can have toxic negative long-term affects. Other research studies have shown that phthalates can disrupt hormones, cause physical defects (cleft palates and skeletal malformations), increase asthma, and lead to insulin resistance, reports CBSNews.

Manufacturers are not obligated to include labels that point out their products contain phthalates, but Congress permanently bans three types of phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DBP) from being used in amounts greater than 0.1 percent in children’s toys and children’s products related to feeding, sleeping, sucking, and teething. Three other phthalates (DINP, DIDP, DnOP) are also banned from children’s products on an interim basis. “While these regulatory actions were taken to protect young children, there have been no regulatory actions to protect the developing fetus in utero, which is often the time of greatest susceptibility,” Dr. Factor-Litvak noted.

Avoiding all phthalates is impossible, but it is possible to reduce your exposure to them. Dr. Factor-Litvak suggests that food never be microwaved in plastic containers and that scented products (such as personal care and cleaning products) never be used. Also, “avoid use of plastics labeled as #3, #6 and #7 as these contain phthalates as well as BPA (bisphenol A), and store food in glass rather than plastic containers as much as possible,” she adds.

Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Baby products that don’t contain phthalates:

 

Image: Group of pregnant bellies via Shutterstock

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Antibiotic Treatment During Pregnancy May Lead to Obesity Risk for Child

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Antibiotics During Pregnancy Can Lead to Obesity in ChildrenTaking antibiotics during your second or third trimester may lead to your child’s likelihood to develop obesity, new research shows.

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity evaluated 436 mother and child pairs and followed the children until they were 7 years old.

The study reports that kids who were exposed to antibiotics during the second or third trimester had an 84 percent higher chance of obesity compared to those who weren’t exposed during the second or third trimesters, after adjusting for several variables.

The study did not look into what kinds of antibiotics the women took. And it’s important to note that while some infections can get better on their own, others require antibiotic treatment to heal—and avoiding treatment could cause even more harm to the mother and developing child.

“The current findings in and of themselves shouldn’t change clinical practice,” Noel T. Mueller, the study’s lead author told The New York Times. “If they hold up in other prospective studies, then they should be part of the equation when considering antibiotic usage. There are many legitimate uses for antibiotics during pregnancy.”

Remember: If you’re pregnant and think you might need to take an antibiotic, always consult your healthcare provider and ask her about any questions or concerns you might have. You can read more about antibiotics and pregnancy here

Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns

Photo of pregnant woman taking pills courtesy of Shutterstock

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Pregnant? Here’s One More Reason To Quit Smoking

Monday, October 20th, 2014

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

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

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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