Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
The number of American women who are having kids after age 35 continues to rise, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More from Time.com:
The average age of women at their first birth has also risen over the past 4 decades, and since 2000, 46 states and DC have experienced a rise in the first-birth rate for women over 35.
“We are definitely seeing this in our practices,” says Dr. Rebecca Starck, chair of the department of regional obstetrics and gynecology at Cleveland Clinic. Given what we know about the risks associated with pregnancy at later ages, should we be worried?
“A healthy 40 year old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28 year old,” says Starck, especially if she prepares her body for pregnancy with healthy food and exercise. Once pregnant, eating well, gaining the right amount of weight and abstaining from harmful behaviors like smoking also make a big difference.
The new report also shows that first time older mothers are generally more educated and more likely to have more resources like higher incomes than women of the youngest reproductive ages.
But the over-35 set still tend to face more risks and complications. For instance, the risks of having a child with a genetic disorder rise after 40, says Starck. It’s still very likely the baby will be healthy and won’t have a chromosome problem, she adds, but the risk does go up proportionally with age.
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Friday, February 28th, 2014
A simple blood test taken early in pregnancy is showing high degrees of accuracy in predicting chromosomal abnormalities in fetuses, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found. The finding is welcome news to pregnant women who worry about having invasive prenatal screenings, some of which, like amniocentesis, carry a small risk of miscarriage. More from The New York Times:
The study, published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the fetal DNA test was 10 times better in predicting cases of Down syndrome than the standard blood test and ultrasound screening, and five times better in predicting the other disorder, Trisomy 18. It also greatly reduced the number of false-positive results.
It could prevent many women who would otherwise get the standard blood test from needing to confirm positive results with invasive tests like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, which can be stressful, much more costly and carry small risks of miscarriage. “Nine out of 10 women who are currently being referred for further testing would not need invasive tests,” said the lead author of the study, Dr. Diana Bianchi, the executive director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children.
A positive result on the DNA screening would still need to be confirmed with invasive tests, because in more than half the cases in which the newer test predicted a disorder, there was no chromosomal abnormality. But a negative result would provide confidence that these two major chromosomal disorders are absent.
“It’s a better mousetrap, there’s no doubt about that,” said Dr. Michael Greene, director of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of an editorial about the study. “If the test is normal, the overwhelming probability is that your fetus is normal. There will be far fewer women who will be encouraged to have invasive testing, and, as a result, far fewer miscarriages.”
The screen analyzes blood from women who are at least 10 weeks pregnant. At that point, about 10 percent of DNA in the blood will be fetal DNA from the placenta, Dr. Bianchi said.
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Monday, October 21st, 2013
The causes of miscarriage are commonly misunderstood by many Americans, a new national survey has shown. For example, most respondents said they believe miscarriage is rare, and that emotional stress is the major cause of miscarriage–two incorrect notions. More from LiveScience:
These false beliefs often lead to feelings of guilt or blame in parents who experience a miscarriage, according to the researchers.
“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly – even though nearly 1 million occur in the U.S. each year, making it the most common complication of pregnancy,” study researcher Dr. S. Zev Williams, an OB-GYN at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said in a statement.
Williams and his colleagues surveyed 1,083 men and women in the United States about their personal experiences and beliefs about miscarriage, the causes and frequency of miscarriages and their emotional impact on people who experience them.
About 65 percent of those surveyed said they thought miscarriage was rare, when in fact, it occurs in one out of four pregnancies, the researchers said. However, 66 percent reported that the emotional impact is severe and potentially equivalent to losing a child, which is a reality for many people who experience one.
Chromosomal abnormalities are in fact the most common cause of miscarriages, accounting for 60 to 80 percent. But among the survey respondents, 76 percent listed a stressful event as a common cause, 74 percent cited longstanding stress and 64 percent cited lifting a heavy object. Forty-one percent said they believed miscarriages may be due to sexually transmitted diseases, 31 percent cited previous abortions, and 28 percent cited implanted long-term forms of birth control.
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed falsely believed that a mother not wanting the pregnancy could result in a miscarriage.
Results of the survey were presented Oct. 17 at the meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Boston.
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Thursday, July 18th, 2013
A potentially game-changing discovery on the developmental and intellectual disorder Down syndrome has been made by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who were able to shut down the “extra” chromosome that causes the disorder using human cells grown in a laboratory dish. It is a finding that medical experts are causing “revolutionary,” as The Boston Globe reports:
“It really is revolutionary, in terms of causing us all to rethink the one impossible thought—can you make, functionally, that extra chromosome disappear,” said Dr. Brian Skotko, co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the new study. “I don’t think any of us thought it was possible or even within the current realm of scientific dreaming that we might one day be able to do it.”
The discovery, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, highlights a broad shift in how scientists, doctors, and families view Down syndrome. In the decades since the chromosome abnormality was identified in 1959, there had been little serious talk about trying to treat its complex underlying biological cause. But research and advocacy are beginning to change the discussion: At Mass. General, two clinical trials of drugs intended to improve the cognitive capacities of adults with Down syndrome are set to start in the next few months.
The hope is that drug therapies, even given in adulthood, could partly restore normal function in the brains of people with Down syndrome. But the condition alters brain development in the womb, so some scientists believe that to be most effective, therapies would need to be administered during pregnancy. Nobody is sure whether the UMass technique could ever be leveraged as a treatment either.
Two drugs will be tested at Mass. General, one made by the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche, and another by Elan Corporation in Ireland.
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The idea of treating the core problems of Down syndrome and not just the medical problems that accompany it, appeals to families, even though such drugs would be unable to reverse all the developmental problems.
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