Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
A review of research on preterm babies reveals that super-early preemies (those born between the 22 and 25 weeks gestation) face significant health risks years later. Compared with full-term babies, these preemies had increased risk of neurological problems at 4 to 8 years of age. Care of premature infants continues to improve, but this review points to the importance of trying to keep babies in the womb as long as possible, TIME.com reports.
More from TIME.com:
It’s not the first hint that preemies are at higher risk of health issues for being born before their development was completed. Some recent studies showed, for example, that babies who were born earlier had poorer test scores in reading and math compared with those born full term. A study published in 2011 that analyzed the long-term effects of premature birth on cognitive abilities such as memory and attention span in early adulthood revealed that people who were born extremely premature performed worse on executive function tests and took longer to complete higher-order intellectual tasks. As adults, these individuals also scored an average of 8.4 points lower on IQ assessments compared with people who were born at full term.
The fact that the effects of premature birth last into adulthood is concerning, since they are not only at a disadvantage in some cognitive functions, they even have a reportedly higher risk of death in early adulthood as well. Advancements in care of premature babies have undoubtedly improved, but lessening their health risks is still a task at hand. In 2012, a team of researchers from the University College London Institute for Women’s Health reported that death rates and health problems among extremely preterm babies has remained unchanged for decades.
While the parents of preemies may find this news less-than-reassuring, this research can help children by giving “parents and clinicians a heads-up for what to look out for during development,” TIME.com says.
Image: Premature baby’s foot, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Here’s some reassuring news: A study finds that stuttering is common among three- and four-year-olds, but those who stutter are unlikely to suffer long-lasting social or emotional damage.
More from USA Today:
The fact that the children who stutter were not more withdrawn than their peers who don’t stutter was a “very positive finding,” says Sheena Reilly, the study’s lead author.
Stuttering, sometimes called stammering, often includes repetition of words or phrases as well as prolongation of sounds. Some people can outgrow the speech disorder, which often begins in early childhood. It can persist into adulthood for others.
The study included 1,619 4-year-old children in Melbourne, Australia. They were recruited at 8 months.
The study found that the children who stutter had higher verbal and non-verbal scores than their peers who don’t stutter. Tests looked at what the kids understand, what they say and how they solve a puzzle.
The proportion of kids in this group who began stuttering by age 4 was 11%, an amount higher than reported in previous studies. Recovery from stuttering within 12 months of onset was 6.3%, a rate lower than expected, according to the study.
Reilly, associate director of clinical and public health research at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, says researchers will continue to follow this group of children to learn more about their recovery from stuttering.
Joseph Donaher, academic and research program director for the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says the finding about stuttering’s impact may help allay parents’ worries. “Reports like this help clinicians make the case that some stuttering, especially for a short period of time, doesn’t mean that your child is going to be negatively impacted in the future.”
Image: Preschool group, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Intriguing new research suggests that your baby is listening closely to what you say—even before she’s born. Finnish scientists found that babies in utero not only hear sounds around them, but also can detect subtle differences in words, and recognize those differences after birth.
More on the study from NBC News:
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with two, four minute sequences of made-up words (“tatata” or “tatota”, said several different ways and with different pitches) from week 29 until birth.
The moms and babies heard the nonsense words about 50 to 71 times. Following birth, the researchers tested the all 33 babies for normal hearing and then performed an EEG (electroencephalograph) brain scan to see if the newborns responded differently to the made-up words and different pitches.
Babies who listened to the CD in utero recognized the made-up words and noticed the pitch changes, which the infants who did not hear the CD did not, the researchers found. They could tell because their brain activity picked up when those words were played, while babies who didn’t hear the CD in the womb did not react as much.
“We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.
“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”
This paper does more than simply find that babies in utero can hear; it shows that babies can detect subtle changes and process complex information.
Image: Mother and ultrasound picture, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
A new research review finds that women who receive consistent care from midwives during pregnancy have better outcomes than those who see family doctors or obstetricians. This review, conducted by the Cochrane Library, found that moms who saw midwives were less likely to need medical interventions or to give birth prematurely.
More from The Huffington Post:
The reviewers looked at 13 trials of more than 16,000 women who saw a small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, or one primary midwife. Eight of the trials included women who were at low-risk for complications during pregnancy and birth, while five included higher-risk women. All of the midwives were licensed in their respective countries, and none of the trials looked at home births.
On the whole, women who saw midwives throughout their pregnancy were less likely to have an epidural painkiller, an episiotomy (an incision made from the vagina to anus during delivery), or a delivery using instruments, such as a vacuum or forceps. There were no differences in Cesarean birth rates.
Women who received continuous care from midwives also were less likely to have a baby before 37 weeks of gestation, or to lose their babies before 24 weeks.
Notably, higher-risk women who saw a midwife as their point-person did not have worse outcomes than low-risk women — a discovery the researchers interpreted with cautious optimism.
“This is an important finding, because it means that midwives have something to offer women who are not low-risk, when they are coordinating care with a primary care physician or an OBGYN,” argued review author Jane Sandall, with the division of women’s health at Kings College, London.
For now, the researchers can only guess why continuous midwife care seems to confer important benefits.
“Having someone who is there for you, who you know is going to be there at your birth is important to women,” said Sandall. “Because women know their midwives, and they’re often easier to get in touch with them, the midwives are picking up any problems sooner and helping women get the right specialist input as early as possible.”
Image: Newborn baby and mom, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
A new study from Denmark suggests that moms who quit smoking right before or right after getting pregnant are more likely to give birth to normal-weight babies than women who continue to puff.
Of the nearly 1,800 women in the study, those who quit smoking did gain about six more pounds than those who continued to smoke, and they gained roughly the same amount in the year after delivery. But their babies weighed the same, on average, as the babies of moms who never smoked. Low-birth-weight babies face higher risk for infections, respiratory disorders, and learning disabilities.
Reuters has more details:
“The big thing to get out of this study is that quitting early in pregnancy is as helpful in respect to the birth weight of your baby as never having smoked while you were pregnant,” Dr. Amber Samuel, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said.
“I think that can be an inspiration to moms who are looking to make a change in their lives.”
According to the American Cancer Society, between 10 and 15 percent of women smoke during pregnancy. Studies have linked smoking to premature birth and other complications, such as birth defects, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
Infants have a three to four times higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome, or “crib death,” if their mothers smoke during and after pregnancy. Children exposed to secondhand smoke also have more ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and other health problems.
The new study included 1,774 women who were part of the “Smoke-free Newborn” study conducted in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 1996 and 1999.
Twice during pregnancy, researchers surveyed women about their smoking status. To double-check whether women who said they quit smoking really did, their saliva was checked for cotinine – created when nicotine is broken down in the body.
About 38 percent of women were smokers before becoming pregnant, and half of them quit right before or soon after, Dr. Line Rode of Copenhagen University Hospital and colleagues found.
During pregnancy, nonsmokers gained almost 30 pounds, on average, smokers gained 29 pounds and quitters gained 35 pounds.
Image: Pregnant belly with cigarette, via Shutterstock
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