Monday, June 23rd, 2014
A set of birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, have been found by a new study to be more common among babies with Hispanic mothers. The March of Dimes report also found that Hispanic mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely–both findings are possibly linked to nutritional deficiencies more common to that community.
More from HealthDay News:
This report, updating a similar 2008 paper by the nonprofit foundation, also highlights the fact that a greater proportion of Hispanic women have babies each year than any other population in the United States, making it the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country.
“One of the things that caught our eye was, while Hispanics represent 17 percent of the population, 24 percent of premature babies are Hispanic,” said Dr. Edward McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, an organization aimed at improving the health of mothers and babies.
Hispanic women may be more prone to giving birth prematurely — defined as before the 37th week of pregnancy — because of risk factors such as being three times as likely as white mothers to be younger than 17 years old. They are also less likely to have graduated from high school and more likely to lack health insurance. The rate of preterm births among Hispanics was about 12 percent higher than that of white mothers in 2012, the report said.
Neural tube defects, which include conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly, are malformations of the brain and spinal cord that can cause death or disability.
Experts suggested that Hispanic mothers are significantly more likely to give birth to babies with these birth defects than white or black women because corn masa flour is a staple of the diet of a majority of Hispanics. Corn masa flour, used to make tortillas and other foods, is not fortified with folic acid, a B vitamin that can help prevent neural tube defects. Wheat flour manufacturers are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fortify that type of flour with folic acid, also called folate.
Also, Hispanic women are less likely to report taking a multivitamin containing folic acid prior to becoming pregnant, according to the report.
“This is why the March of Dimes is striving to have masa cornmeal fortified with folate,” said Dr. Diana Ramos, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.
“Corn masa flour is not part of the standard American diet, so, since 2012, we’ve been working on this, making progress slowly,” added Ramos, co-chair of the newly established March of Dimes Hispanic Advisory Council.
McCabe said the March of Dimes has launched a Spanish-language site, Nacersano.org, that offers information about the specific health needs of Hispanics. He said a variety of outreach efforts, including the website and new advisory council, are needed to help raise awareness in the Hispanic community about the need for folic acid consumption and prenatal health.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 1 in 10 American pregnant women develop diabetes during pregnancy, with obesity standing out as the major risk factor for the disease. More from HealthDay:
Gestational diabetes develops in women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood sugar during pregnancy. As with type 2 diabetes, obesity is a significant risk factor for gestational diabetes. The increased prevalence of gestational diabetes has closely paralleled the rise in obesity, according to background information in the study.Gestational diabetes can have short- and long-term effects for both mother and baby.
Dr. Alessandro Acosta, a neonatologist at Miami Children’s Hospital, noted that the condition can cause the baby to be abnormally large, which may result in damage to the baby’s shoulders during birth. Many of these babies are so large they need to be delivered by cesarean section, he said.
The problems caused by gestational diabetes don’t end at delivery. “The bad news is that down the road these women are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” he said.
DeSisto added: “Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have more than a seven-fold increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the five to 10 years after delivery. Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop pre-diabetes.”
Although the exact causes of gestational diabetes aren’t known, one explanation is that hormones from the placenta block the action of insulin in the mother’s body, according to the American Diabetes Association. This makes it hard for the mother to use insulin, so she may need up to three times as much insulin to properly use the sugar in her body.
Obesity is another possibility, DeSisto said. “Other researchers have reported that gestational diabetes has been steadily increasing consistent with the rise of obesity,” she said.
Obesity has also been linked to insulin resistance, which blunts the effect of insulin and allows blood sugar levels to rise, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“Preventing obesity is a key component of well woman care and diabetes prevention. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight throughout the reproductive years benefits women and improves the health of any future pregnancies,” DeSisto said.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 6th, 2014
Women who have babies in quick succession–with 18 months or less between pregnancies–may be at higher risk of experiencing preterm labor with their second babies, according to new research published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. ScienceDaily.com has more:
The US study, using birth records from the Ohio Department of Health, looked at 454,716 live births from women with two or more pregnancies over a six year period. The researchers looked at the influence of inadequate birth spacing on the duration of the subsequent pregnancy.
The study defined short interpregnancy interval (IPI) as time from the immediate preceding birth to subsequent conception of the next pregnancy. Researchers categorized the women with short IPIs into two groups, IPI less than 12 months and IPI 12-18 months, comparing them to women who were considered to have an optimal IPI of 18 months or more.
Results showed that mothers with shorter IPIs were more likely to give birth prior to 39 weeks gestation when compared to women with optimal birth spacing. Following a short IPI of less than 12 months, 53.3% of women had delivered before 39 weeks, compared to 37.5% of women with an optimal IPI. Birth after the estimated due date (more than 40 weeks) occurred less often in women with short IPI of less than 12 months, 16.9% compared to 23.1% for a normal IPI.
Furthermore the rate of preterm birth before 37 weeks gestation was higher in women who conceived after a short IPI of less than 12 months. They were more than twice as likely to give birth before 37 weeks compared to pregnancies following an optimal IPI (20.1% vs. 7.7% respectively).
The study also looked at racial groups. Figures showed that black mothers more frequently had shorter IPIs compared to non-black mothers (less than 12 months, 3.3% vs. 1.9% and 12-18 months, 13.2% vs. 10.1%).
Moreover, the rate of preterm birth was also higher in black mothers with short IPI of less than 12 months, 26.4% compared to 8.7% for non-black mothers.
While women who conceived following an optimal IPI (18 months or more) had the lowest rates of preterm birth, black women still showed a higher rate of overall preterm births (11.3%) compared to non-black mothers (6.8%), suggesting that maternal ethnicity was also a significant predictor of preterm birth despite optimal birth spacing.
The study’s authors recommended women try for an “optimal” birth spacing of 18 months or longer between pregnancies.
Image: Pregnant woman holding a baby, via Shutterstock
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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.”
Image: Healthy baby, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 19th, 2014
Women who smoke during pregnancy may be putting their babies at greater risk of ADHD and other disorders in which impulse control is compromised. A new study may have identified the specific brain changes that are behind this risk. More from Reuters:
People whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had weaker responses in the regions of their brains known to be involved in inhibition control, compared to those whose mothers didn’t smoke, researchers found.
Inhibition control relates to how people keep their impulses in check and resist distractions in certain situations.
“What’s quite surprising is to find such a reliable effect of prenatal smoke exposure that occurred 25 years before,” Nathalie Holz said.
Holz is the study’s lead author from Mannheim/Heidelberg University in Germany.
She and her colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that about 22 percent of European women smoke and about half of them continue to smoke during pregnancy.
Smoking while pregnant has been tied to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, among kids. Children with the condition usually have trouble concentrating and controlling their impulses.
“Now we were interested in what the specific mechanisms are behind this association,” Holz said.
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Image: Pregnant woman smoking, via Shutterstock
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