Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
A government program that provides millions of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children with money and education to help them eat nutritious foods is on the list of agencies that will lose funding as part of the partial government shutdown. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides families with children under 5 nutritious meals in an effort to stave off learning disabilities and other health effects of premature birth and other complications. More on the shutdown’s effects on the program from CNN Money:
“No additional federal funds would be available,” to continue the program in the event of a shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs WIC, said on its website. “States may have some funds available … to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period.”
There are just under nine million women and children on the program, according to USDA. The average monthly benefit is about $45.
That often comes on top of about $135 a month in food stamp benefits. WIC benefits mandate the money can only be spent on an approved list of healthy foods.
Suspending the program is a terrible idea, said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, head of the National WIC Association, which represents the regional offices that administer the programs.
While a suspension would only be temporary, it would send the wrong message to mothers, and perhaps convincing some that it’s not worth signing up for, he said.
Greenaway said the program actually saves taxpayers money.
It costs $20,000 per pound to bring a premature child up to normal weight, he said. All told, for every $1 spent the program saves $4.21 in medical costs, he said.
Image: Mother feeding baby, via Shutterstock
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Monday, September 23rd, 2013
Pregnant women who are seriously overweight or obese are more than 50 percent less likely to deliver a baby who has a healthy birth rate, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. More from NBC News:
Women with a body-mass index between 30 and 35 were 58 percent more likely than those at a healthy weight to deliver an extremely premature baby, a team of U.S. and Swedish researchers found after examining the medical and delivery records of 1,599, 551 Swedish moms. Pregnant women with a BMI between 35 and 40 were twice as likely as normal-weight moms to have an extremely premature baby, while those with BMIs of 40 or greater were nearly three times as likely to deliver an extremely premature baby.
“When a baby is born earlier than it should be born, the potential for all the organs not being fully developed is increased,” said Karen Cooper, director of Healthy Expectations, a program at the Cleveland Clinic that helps women lose weight before they become pregnant. The program also helps obese pregnant women such as Bufford make healthier lifestyle choices so they might minimize the risks to their babies.
“When it comes to being obese and being pregnant, the risk factors for things going wrong multiply very quickly,” Cooper told NBC News. “Along with that comes gestational diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia, which can eventually lead to eclampsia, which is a condition where seizures occur.”
A premature baby may need a ventilator to help with breathing and nutrients fed through an IV tube, said Dr. Sandra McCalla, director of obstetrics at the Maimonides Medical Center. Further, prematurity can put a baby at risk for future problems, McCalla said.
More than half of American women of reproductive age are overweight or obese, said Cooper. But dieting during pregnancy is not the solution to maternal obesity.
“We just really encourage them to have a healthy lifestyle,” Cooper said. “We put together exercise activities per the individual mom and a calorie plan specific to the mom to have them gain an appropriate amount of weight.”
Image: Overweight pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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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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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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Friday, August 16th, 2013
Babies who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy have been shown in a new study to carry an elevated risk of developing heart disease as an adult, specifically affecting the heart’s right ventricle, which controls the heart’s ability to pump blood. More from CBS News:
The researchers behind the new study, published Aug. 12 in Circulation, point out that that up to 10 percent of young adults today are born premature.
“We wanted to understand why this occurs so that we can identify the small group of patients born premature who may need advice from their health care provider about this cardiovascular risk,” said study author Paul Leeson, a professor of cardiology at the University of Oxford’s Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility in the U.K., in a press release. “The changes we have found in the right ventricle are quite distinct and intriguing.”
The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation.
The human heart contains four chambers: the right and left atria — which receive and collect blood — and right and left ventricles, which pump blood from the heart into the circulatory system and rest of the body.
The ventricle on the right side of the heart, specifically, pumps blood from the heart to the lungs, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
When breathing air in, a cycle kicks off in which oxygen is passed from the lungs through blood vessels and into the blood. Then, carbon dioxide (waste) is passed from the blood through the lungs where it’s removed when you breathe out. The left atrium is what receives this oxygen-rich blood from the lungs, which is then pumped out by the left ventricle into the main artery of the body, the aorta. Then it is delivered to the rest of the body.
The researchers followed a group of premature babies born in the 1980s until they were about 25. They were given standard heart tests checking for blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition to MRI machines to measure patients’ blood vessels and heart structures. They then created a computer model to determine how much blood is being pumped in their hearts.
“Their hearts appear to be slightly smaller, they had slightly thicker walls and had a slight reduction of the blood they are pumping,” Leeson told CBS News’ Alphonso Van Marsh of those born prematurely, when compared to those born at full term.
People with these types of changes in the right ventricle’s structure are more likely to have mild to moderate cases of high blood pressure (hypertension), and are at an increased risk for heart failure or cardiovascular-related death, according the researchers.
Image: Heart monitor, via Shutterstock
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