Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Folic acid offers more protection than thought

Baby-protecting folic acid is getting renewed attention: Not only does it fight spina bifida and some related abnormalities, new research shows it also may prevent premature birth and heart defects.

Now pregnancy specialists are asking if it's time for the government to boost the amount being added to certain foods to help ensure mothers-to-be get enough. But for older adults (past child-bearing age), there may be a down side to the nutrient: Extra-high levels late in life just might pose a cancer risk.

"Folate is assuming the role of a chameleon, if you will," says Dr. Joel Mason of Tufts University's nutrition research center, who is researching that possible risk.

Folic acid is an artificial version of folate, a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit and dried beans. Everyone needs regular folate because it's important for healthy cell growth yet the body doesn't store up enough of it.

And pregnant women need extra, even before they may know they've conceived. Enough folate in pregnancy's earliest days can prevent devastating birth defects of the spine and brain called neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Those defects have dropped by about a third since the U.S. mandated fortifying certain breads, cereals and pastas with folic acid in January 1998.

Two major studies in the past month suggest the vitamin may be even more protective.

First, Texas researchers analyzed nearly 35,000 pregnancies and found that women who reported taking folic acid supplements for at least a year before becoming pregnant cut in half their risk of having a premature baby. Their risk of having very early preemies, the babies least likely to survive, dropped even more.

Then Canadian researchers analyzed 1.3 million births in Quebec since 1990 to look for heart defects, the most common type of birth defect. They found the rate of serious heart defects has dropped 6 percent a year since Canada began its own food fortification in December 1998.

It's hard to get enough folate for pregnancy through an average diet. So health authorities have long advised that all women of childbearing age take a daily vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid — even if they're not trying to conceive, since half of pregnancies are unplanned. Last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force went a little further, recommending that women take a daily supplement with 400 micrograms to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily.


Molly Ringwald's Fit Pregnancy

Expectant mom Molly Ringwald strikes a pose for the cover of the June issue of Fit Pregnancy. Molly and her husband Panio Gianopoulos are set to make the leap from one child to three as they are expecting twins - a boy and a girl - in August. The 41-year-old star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager talks to the magazine about motherhood, her daughter Mathilda, 5 1/2, and why she hopes to deliver the twins naturally.

On her pregnancy: "It’s not exactly the way we planned it, but various circumstances kept us from having a baby sooner. I actually think it’s a good thing considering we’re having twins, as it would be so much harder with a toddler than with an almost 6-year-old."

On what she'll do differently this time around: "This is going to be our last time around, so I’m going to appreciate the moments and try not to be too overwhelmed."

On getting ready to welcome twins: "It’s exciting, especially since it’s a boy and girl. It’s the best of both worlds. Also, since there is such a big age difference with my daughter, it will be nice that they will have each other. I won’t have to scramble for playdates; I am really bad about that. I guess I am a naturally shy person and slow to make friends. I always feel a little deficient in the playdate department. [She laughs.] But I am worried about lack of sleep. I will be working and I’m taking just eight weeks off to give birth and take care of them, and then I go back to work in September. I have never done that before."

On motherhood: "I am really excited to have a bigger family. I can’t wait to meet and see them. It’s so hard to imagine your children before they are actually here. I say to my husband all the time, 'Can you imagine life without Mathilda?' She is such a huge part of us now, it’s impossible to think of life without her. Our daughter is so different from us; she has elements of me and of my husband, but such her own personality, sense of humor, and individual ideas. It’s so interesting to see how they grow and develop. It will be the same way with the twins. Because it hasn’t happened yet, it’s so exciting to think about who these little people will be."

On breastfeeding: "Yes, I am going to [breastfeed the twins], but I don’t know what that’s going to be like with the two. I did breastfeed Mathilda."

On her pregnancy advice: "Every woman is different and has her own experience, but it’s important to eat right and take care of yourself. You don’t need to run a marathon but don’t stop working out if it feels good. You have to listen to your own body. And trust that you can give birth."

On her birth plan: "I am going to try to do it naturally, but it’s not easy to find an OB who won’t immediately schedule a C-section when you have twins. It feels like our country has gone a little crazy on that front. I really do feel that giving birth the natural way is important. Of course, if they tell me I have to have C-section because it’s dangerous for the babies not to, I won’t say no. But I don’t want to discount it as a possibility."


Monday, June 01, 2009

Early Gender Tests

Earlier this year, The Pink or Blue Early Gender Test (about $240) became available online in the U.S. The test claims to be able to determine the gender of a fetus from as early as seven weeks after conception with a drop of the mother's blood sent off to a lab.

The test claims to be 95% accurate, but Dr. Eva Pressman, Director of Obstetrics and Internal Fetal Medicine at the University of Rochester, says "the DNA technology being used has many potential pitfalls" and she suspects the accuracy could be less.

Most importantly, she says, "in the absence of a family history of significant genetic disorders, there's no need to know fetal gender this early, and an ultrasound can usually identify gender by 18 - 20 weeks."

Now, here's another, more affordable version ...The IntelliGender Prenatal Gender Prediction Test. It costs $30 and claims that, as early as six weeks pregnant, you can pee into a cup, swirl it around, and it will tell you if you're having a boy or a girl.

The test claims to be the only affordable, simple-to-use urine test to tell you the gender. It also claims an 82% accuracy rate in real world applications.

Would you pay for an early gender test? Source