Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Exposure to phthalates, a type of chemical used in certain plastics and cosmetics, has been linked in a recent study to an elevated risk that pregnant women will deliver their babies prematurely. More from Reuters:
Researchers found that women who delivered babies before 37 weeks gestation had higher levels of phthalates in their urine, compared to women who delivered their children at full term, which is 39 weeks.
“Preterm birth is a real public health problem,” said John Meeker, who led the study. “We’re not really sure how to go about preventing it, but this may shed light on environmental factors that people may want to be educated in.”
Meeker, from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, added, “We knew that exposure to phthalates was virtually ubiquitous here in the U.S. and possibly worldwide and preterm births increased for unknown reasons over the past several decades.”
Phthalates are included in products for a variety of reasons, include to make plastic flexible.
Image: Lipsticks, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Women who have had bariatric surgery as a weight loss solution may face an elevated risk of some pregnancy complications, including giving birth to babies who have low birth weight and are born prematurely, a new study has found. More from The New York Times:
The authors of the research, published in BMJ, looked at roughly 15,000 births that took place in Sweden between 1992 and 2009, including about 2,500 among women who had had had weight loss surgery. On average, the women delivered about five years after the surgery.
After controlling for age, smoking and other factors that could influence pregnancy complications, the researchers found that 10 percent of children born to women who had undergone bariatric surgery were delivered prematurely, compared with 6 percent in the other group.
A similar pattern was found for low birth weight. Five percent of children born to mothers in the surgery group were small for their gestational age, compared with 3 percent in the other group.
The researchers speculate that the trends could be driven by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which occur after bariatric surgery and could affect fetal and placental growth.
Image: Pregnant belly, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
Boys are slightly more likely than girls to be born prematurely, a new international study on newborn health has found. Additionally, boys don’t tend to fare as well as girls world-wide. More from The Associated Press:
“This is a double whammy for boys,” said Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the team of researchers. “It’s a pattern that happens all over the world.”
The gender difference isn’t large: About 55 percent of preterm births in 2010 were male, the report found. Nor is it clear exactly why it happens.
The finding comes from a series of international studies being published Friday that examine newborn health and prematurity. About 15 million babies worldwide are born too soon, most of them in Africa and parts of Asia where survival is difficult for fragile newborns. Globally, about 1 million babies die as a direct result of preterm birth and another million die of conditions for which prematurity is an added risk, the researchers calculated.
Friday’s report offers some of the first estimates of how many preemie survivors go on to suffer certain disabilities, and found that where these babies are born, and how early, determines their risk.
Overall, Lawn said about 7 percent of survivors have two of the most burdensome disabilities: neurologic-developmental impairment ranging from learning disabilities to cerebral palsy, and vision loss.
But the biggest risk is to the youngest preemies, those born before 28 weeks gestation. Worldwide, 52 percent of them are estimated to have some degree of neurodevelopmental impairment, the report found.
Moreover, the risk of impairment in middle-income countries is double that of wealthy countries like the U.S.
For example, China is saving more preemies’ lives but at the cost of their vision, Lawn said.
Middle-income countries are missing out on a lesson the U.S. learned the hard way several decades ago, that giving these tiny babies too much oxygen can trigger a potentially blinding condition called retinopathy of prematurity.
“Disability is not something that’s inevitable. It’s preventable,” she said, calling for improved quality of care including eye checks to prevent or reduce vision loss.
The March of Dimes reported this month that 11.5 percent of U.S. births now are preterm. That rate is inching down, thanks mostly to fewer babies being born just a few weeks early as standards for elective deliveries have tightened, but it still is higher than in similar countries.
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 21st, 2013
The number of women who become pregnant using donor eggs has risen in the last decade, although the number of healthy babies born on time and at a healthy weight remains less than ideal for that group. More from The Associated Press:
That ideal result occurred in about 1 out of 4 donor egg pregnancies in 2010, up from 19 percent a decade earlier, the study found.
Almost 56 percent resulted in a live birth in 2010, and though most of these were generally healthy babies, 37 percent were twins and many were born prematurely, at low birth weights. Less than 1 percent were triplets. Low birth weights are less than about 5½ pounds and babies born that small are at risk for complications including breathing problems, jaundice, feeding difficulties and eye problems.
For women who use in vitro fertilization and their own eggs, the live-birth rate varies by age and is highest — about 40 percent — among women younger than 35.
Women who use IVF with donor eggs are usually older and don’t have viable eggs of their own. Because the donor eggs are from young, healthy women, they have a good chance of success, generally regardless of the recipient’s age.
The average age of women using donor eggs was 41 in 2010 and donors were aged 28 on average; those didn’t change over 10 years.
The study, by researchers at Emory University and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was published online Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting in Boston.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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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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