Don’t freak out: Scentists are finding that a mom-to-be’s stress levels can have significant effects on a child’s future health, including delays in cognitive development, behavioral issues, and even an increased risk of autism. The latest link? Scientists have found that maternal stress could increase the risk that babies develop allergy-induced asthma.
The study, produced by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, focused on mice, and found that even a single stressful situation could flood the baby’s bloodstream with stress hormones like corticosterone, and lead to a greater chance that the baby develops allergy-based asthma after birth.
What’s the takeaway? Do what you can to relax, unwind, and reduce stress throughout your pregnancy, to help protect your baby’s health.
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allergy-induced asthma, asthma, Autism, Child Health, cognitive delays, maternal stress, mental health, mom-to-be, Pregnancy, pregnancy health, prenatal stress, research, study | Categories:
Child Health, New Research
Does your child have an accurate perception of his or her weight? Maybe not. A new study, published yesterday in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, found that 27 percent of U.S. kids and teens underestimate how much they weigh, while just 3 percent overestimate it. And parents fared about the same when it came to judging their kids’ pounds, with roughly 25 percent guessing on the low side of the scale and 1 percent guessing too high. More from HealthDay News:
“Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should incorporate education for both children and parents regarding the proper identification and interpretation of actual body weight,” said lead researcher Han-Yang Chen, from the department of quantitative health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.
“Interventions for appropriate weight loss should target children directly because one of the major driving forces to lose weight comes from the child’s perception of their weight,” he said.
Data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and included 2,613 kids between the ages of 8 and 15.
The study also found that healthy-weight kids who overestimated their weight were more likely to try shedding unnecessary pounds than the kids who accurately estimated their weight—which one expert fears could lead to potential eating disorders and body image issues.
“These opposing problems are really two sides of the same coin—the fixation on weight rather than health,” Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told HealthDay News. “In general, dieting is ill advised, both for overweight children and those misperceiving their weight as high when it isn’t.”
Calculate your child’s height and weight percentile with our baby growth charts.
Image of a child on a scale courtesy of Shutterstock
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Babies who are born prematurely are monitored closely to track their development, especially their cognitive development, as they grow. A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics has found that most of these babies, by the time they are teens, are able to perform in cognitive tests as well as teens who were born at full term. The study found that the family and social environment a child is raised in is far more predictive than their gestational age at birth.
More from ScienceDaily on the study, which was conducted by Australian researchers:
“Every year, 10% of Australian babies are born preterm, and many studies have shown that these children often have cognitive difficulties in childhood,” says one of the lead authors of the study, Dr Julia Pitcher from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute.
“This new study has some positive news. We looked at the factors that determine cognitive abilities in early adolescence, and found that whether or not you were born preterm appears to play a relatively minor role. Of significantly more importance is the degree of social disadvantage you experienced in your early life after birth, although genetics is important,” Dr Pitcher says.
The study, conducted by Research Officer Dr Luke Schneider, assessed the cognitive abilities of 145 preterm and term-born young people now aged over 12. He also assessed data on social disadvantage at the time of birth and at the time of the cognitive assessment.
“The results of our study provide further proof that those born at term tend to have better cognitive abilities — such as working memory, brain processing efficiency and general intellectual ability. But the postnatal environment seems to be playing an important role in whether or not a preterm child is able to overcome that initial risk of reduced brain development,” Dr Schneider says.
Image: Preemie, via Shutterstock
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Mothers who have specific fears and anxieties may inadvertently pass them along to their days-old newborns through an unlikely method–smell. A new study published in the journal Proceedings National Academy of Sciences tested the role of smell in fear transfer by exposing rats to mild shocks while they were in an environment scented with peppermint oil. Later, the same rats gave birth, and the pups’ fear responses were tested, measuring the activity of the part of the brain called the amygdala, when they were exposed to the same scent. The pups, the study found, showed a fear reaction at the mere whiff of peppermint.
Newsweek has more:
“It was really surprising to us that…it could be so early and could be so lasting,” said [psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and lead researcher Jacek] Debiec, pointing out that infants generally do not form lasting memories unless experiences are repeated during the first few days of life, a concept called infantile amnesia. “Here it was a single exposure and it was enough for these newborn pups to create lasting memories,” added Debiec.
When researchers gave pups a substance that blocked activity in the amygdala, according to the study, the baby rats did not learn the fear of peppermint smell from their mothers. This could help mental health experts find ways to prevent children from learning certain fear responses from their mothers.
“Infants can learn from their mothers about potential environmental threats before their sensory and motor development allows them a comprehensive exploration of the surrounding environment,” says the six-page study.
Some mother rats tried to plug the tubing so that the smell wouldn’t come through, a behavior that Debiec found interesting and wants to study further.
Image: Boy smells something bad, via Shutterstock
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A new study that followed 670 preschool-aged children in Ohio for a year is urging that integrating children with disabilities, who are enrolled in special education programs in school, into regular-ability classrooms may have a remarkable impact on the special needs’ kids language skills over the course of a school year. Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University, says that the results should encourage schools who are considering inclusion models where children with disabilities are placed in the same classroom as peers who are developing normally. More from Science Daily:
“Students with disabilities are the ones who are affected most by the language skills of the other children in their class,” Justice said.
“We found that children with disabilities get a big boost in their language scores over the course of a year when they can interact with other children who have good language skills.”
In fact, after one year of preschool, children with disabilities had language skills comparable to children without disabilities when surrounded by highly skilled peers in their classroom.
“The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them,” Justice said. “In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”
Justice added that highly-skilled children’s language abilities were not negatively affected by having the special needs children in their classrooms.
Image: Preschool letters and numbers, via Shutterstock
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