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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Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Babies who are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, often referred to as fetal alcohol syndrome, suffer brain development delays well into their childhood and even into adolescence, not only at birth and in young infanthood, according to a new research from the University of Alberta. More from ScienceDaily:
Researchers used an advanced MRI method that examines white matter in the brain. White matter forms connections between various regions of the brain and usually develops significantly during childhood and adolescence. Those who took part in the study were imaged multiple times, to see what kinds of changes occurred in brain development as the participants aged. Those without the disorder had marked increases in brain volume and white matter — growth that was lacking in those with FASD. However, the advanced MRI method revealed greater changes in the brain wiring of white matter in the FASD group, which the authors suggest may reflect compensation for delays in development earlier in childhood.
“These findings may suggest that significant brain changes happened earlier in the study participants who didn’t have FASD,” says the study’s first author, Sarah Treit, who is a student in the Centre for Neuroscience at the U of A. “This study suggests alcohol-induced injury with FASD isn’t static — those with FASD have altered brain development, they aren’t developing at the same rate as those without the disorder. And our research showed those with FASD consistently scored lower on all cognitive measures in the study.”
Treit said the research team also made other important observations. Children with FASD who demonstrated the greatest changes in white matter development also made the greatest gains in reading ability — “so the connection seems relevant.” And those with the most severe FASD showed the greatest changes in white matter brain wiring. Scans also confirmed those with FASD have less overall brain volume — this issue neither rectified itself nor worsened throughout the course of the study.
Image: Pregnant woman drinking alcohol, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Women who get poor sleep during pregnancy–either not enough time asleep or restless sleep–may disrupt the immune system and lead to lower birth weight and other complications, a new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine has found. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Women with depression also are more likely than non-depressed women to suffer from disturbed sleep and to experience immune system disruption and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
“Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior,” said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine and lead author of the report. “The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions.”
Adequate and high-quality sleep, both in pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as men, is essential for a healthy immune system. Pregnancy often is associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. These disturbances can exacerbate the body’s inflammatory responses and cause an overproduction of cytokines, which act as signal molecules that communicate among immune cells.
“There is a dynamic relationship between sleep and immunity, and this study is the first to examine this relationship during pregnancy as opposed to postpartum,” added Dr. Okun.
While cytokines are important for numerous pregnancy-related processes, excess cytokines can attack and destroy healthy cells and cause destruction of tissue in pregnant women, thereby inhibiting the ability to ward off disease. For expectant mothers, excess cytokines also can disrupt spinal arteries leading to the placenta, cause vascular disease, lead to depression and cause pre-term birth.
Image: Sleeping pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, July 18th, 2013
A regular regimen of exercise–two or three periods of moderately intense activity weekly during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy–could help protect women from delivering high birth weight babies, as well as lowering the likelihood they will require a Cesarean section, according to new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. More from ScienceDaily.com:
The researchers contacted a total of 780 Spanish pregnant women attending two primary health care centres in Leganés (Madrid). Finally, 510 gave their consent to participate in the study. They all recognized they were sedentary — that is, that they exercised for less than 20 minutes on fewer than 3 days a week.
The intervention group followed a training program that consisted of 55 minute sessions of aerobic, muscle strength and flexibility exercises on three days a week from weeks 10-12 to weeks 38-39 of pregnancy, while the control group received standard recommendations and care.
The results showed the training sessions did not reduce the appearance of gestational diabetes mellitus but did diminish the incidence of two major associated risks: macrosomia [high birth weight babies] (down by 58%) and caesarean delivery (which fell by 34%).
These findings “reinforce the need to encourage more supervised exercise interventions during pregnancy to combat the negative effects of gestational diabetes mellitus,” says Jonatan Ruiz, researcher in the University of Granada Department of Physical and Sports Education and corresponding author of the study.
Image: Pregnant woman exercising, via Shutterstock
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