Posts Tagged ‘ newborn health ’

Placenta Found to Have Significant Impact on Newborns’ Health

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

The placenta, the organ that a woman’s body generates during pregnancy to nourish her growing baby, was once thought to be “sterile,” but new research has identified a number of bacteria that thrive in it–bacteria that may have a large impact on the baby’s health when it is born.  More from The New York Times:

The research is part of a broader scientific effort to explore the microbiome, the trillions of microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — that colonize the human body, inside and out. Those organisms affect digestion, metabolism and an unknown array of biological processes, and may play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

During pregnancy, the authors of the new study suspect, the wrong mix of bacteria in the placenta may contribute to premature births, a devastating problem worldwide. Although the research is preliminary, it may help explain why periodontal disease and urinary infections in pregnant women are linked to an increased risk of premature birth. The findings also suggest a need for more studies on the effects of antibiotics taken during pregnancy.

The new study suggests that babies may acquire an important part of their normal gut bacteria from the placenta. If further research confirms the findings, that may be reassuring news for women who have had cesareans. Some researchers have suggested that babies born by cesarean miss out on helpful bacteria that they would normally be exposed to in the birth canal.

“I think women can be reassured that they have not doomed their infant’s microbiome for the rest of its life,” said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, the first author of the new study, published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. She added that studies were needed to determine the influence of cesareans on the microbiome.

Previous studies have looked at bacteria that inhabit the mouth, skin, vagina and intestines. But only recently has attention turned to the placenta, a one-pound organ that forms inside the uterus and acts as a life support system for the fetus. It provides oxygen and nutrients, removes wastes and secretes hormones.

“People are intrigued by the role of the placenta,” said Dr. Aagaard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “There’s no other time in life that we acquire a totally new organ. And then we get rid of it.”

Labor & Delivery: Placenta
Labor & Delivery: Placenta
Labor & Delivery: Placenta

Image: Healthy baby, via Shutterstock

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Swaddling Babies Could Increase Risk of Hip Problems

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Babies who are routinely wrapped in swaddles could face a higher risk of hip dysplasia, especially when newborns are already at risk from breech delivery or other issues, a new British study has concluded..  More from

The problem with swaddling is that it “positions the legs in extension, that is, straight,” explains the report’s author Dr. Nicholas P. Clarke, a professor and consultant orthopedic surgeon at the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom. “But in order for the hips to develop properly in the first six months, the legs need to be flexed and abducted, that is, separated.”

Thus, swaddling, which holds the legs rigidly in place, can provoke dysplasia, particularly in infants at risk, Clarke says.

Doctors suspect that swaddling increases the risk of dysplasia because it gets in the way of normal development, says Dr. Anthony Scaduto, chief of pediatric orthopedics at the Orthopedic Institute for Children at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the early months, babies’ hips are still very malleable, Scaduto explains. In normal development, when babies move their legs, that drives the ball of the femur deeper into the socket, causing permanent changes to the joint.

“If the pressure from the ball isn’t there, then the socket grows more flat and plate-like,” Scaduto says.

And that shallow socket can lead to hip dysplasia.

Scaduto has noticed that an increasing percentage of the patients referred to him because of suspected hip dysplasia have been swaddled.

After reviewing all the available studies on infants and swaddling, Clarke determined that swaddled infants “arouse less and sleep longer.”

“Parents are turning to swaddling because there is a view that it helps sleep, which it does, and colic, which it does not,” Clarke says.

There are other risk factors for hip dysplasia, Clarke notes, including “breech delivery and family history,” but environmental factors such as swaddling can’t be ignored.

Hip dysplasia that is diagnosed early can be treated with a splint, Clarke told Today.

Image: Swaddled baby, via Shutterstock

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