Friday, August 07, 2009

Roger Federer's Happy Family

Here's your first look at tennis champ Roger Federer and his wife Mirka's beautiful baby girls Charlene Riva and Myla Rose, born July 23rd.

The proud papa posted this lovely family pic on his Facebook page, along with the following message to his many fans:

"As promised, here is a family picture that my dad took. He thinks he's becoming a professional photographer. It was very funny as both girls had the hiccups while we were trying to take a decent picture. The girls and mom are doing great. Thanks for all your warm wishes."

So glad to hear the family-of-four is doing so well. Congratulations again to Roger and Mirka!


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mother's smoking increases daughter's pancreatic cancer risk

A woman who smokes during pregnancy and motherhood appears to boost her daughter's odds of developing pancreatic cancer, the deadly disease that will strike an estimated 21,420 women (and 21,050 men) this year.

Researchers from Harvard University and Imperial College London looked at pancreatic cancer rates in the Nurse's Health Study, one of the nation's oldest and largest studies of women and influences on their health. Although it's long been known that tobacco use is associated with higher rates of pancreatic cancer, researchers wanted to explore the effects of secondhand smoke on a person's risk of developing the disease. In the 24 years over which the women were followed, 384 of 86,673 women were diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is often called "the silent killer" because its symptoms are unlikely to be felt until the disease is in an advanced stage.

The study, published in the August issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that for women whose mothers smoked around them when they were young, rates of pancreatic cancer were significantly higher. A child whose father smoked or who was exposed in adulthood to a smoking family member or co-worker, was not significantly more likely to develop the disease.

Less clear is whether a mother with a smoking habit passes on to her daughter a heightened biological propensity to develop pancreatic cancer or an increased likelihood of smoking. Female nurses who themselves never smoked cigarettes were only slightly more likely than those who did not develop pancreas cancer, even if their moms smoked. The difference was small enough that researchers said it could have been attributable to chance.

But researchers did not rule out the possibility that a fetus or a child's exposure to secondhand smoke might set in motion some biological process that puts that female child at risk. That would put pancreatic cancer in the company of many other negative health consequences for a child exposed to her mother's smoking habit, including low birthweight, greater incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases, higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


Swine flu vaccine not tested on pregnant women

A new vaccine for swine flu is most likely to be targeted at vulnerable groups such as young children and pregnant women. But a Radio 4 documentary has discovered that little or no data exists on the safety or effectiveness of flu vaccines on these groups.

In 1976 the US Government vaccinated 45 million people for a swine flu outbreak that never materialised.

But 500 people developed a rare neurological condition called Guillame Barre syndrome which left people in a coma and 25 died.

The reaction still mystifies health officials, including Peter Smith, Professor of tropical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"Why that happened has never really been understood - it's not really been observed with subsequent influenza vaccines," said Professor Smith, chairman of the global advisory committee on vaccine safety at the World Health Organisation.

"There's been a lot of seasonal flu vaccines and they've not seen this same adverse effect at all and so that is a sort of lurking shadow in the US experience which I suspect influences the way in which they treat all new vaccines," he added.

Health officials and academics think it is highly unlikely that such an adverse reaction would happen again.

But it is a concern as authorities around the globe stand on the verge of a mass vaccination programme against the current pandemic.

Pregnant women and children are expected to be among the groups targeted for vaccination, especially in countries likely to ration their vaccines.

Yet paradoxically the hard scientific evidence about the efficacy or dangers of these vaccines on pregnant women and young children does not exist.

"There is no study of the vaccines on pregnant women - no randomised clinical trials," said epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, who reviews influenza prevention and treatment for The Cochrane Collaboration, the voluntary global database provided by healthcare professionals which monitors the effects of healthcare worldwide.

He added: "Under the age of two there is only one trial and it shows inactivate vaccines [vaccines based on killed organisms] don't actually work."

Dr Jefferson said the best effect of influenza vaccines was on healthy adults.

A further problem, he explained, was that flu vaccines are unique in that they are registered and approved before full scale clinical trials have taken place.

This poses a potential dilemma for the Dept of Health - whether to start vaccination before the trial's results are known. Officials declined to tell The Report whether they will wait for the end of the trial.

The US has already issued its priorities: adults under 24, pregnant women, healthcare workers and people with underlying conditions like asthma. The over 65s are at the end of the queue.


Mom Sells Unborn Baby's Naming Rights on eBay

Can't decide what to call your impending babe? Put its naming rights up for auction on eBay! That's what an unemployed Arkansas mother of six is doing for her seventh baby.

With her husband in the Navy and stationed hundreds of miles away, and her financial troubles growing, Lavonne Drummond placed the ad on Sunday to raise money to "pay for a new car (one that can fit my BIG family) some baby cloths, and maybe if some one is generious [sic] enough a new house. but we are despritly [sic] in need of a new car."

The winning bidder will pick the legal first name for her son and meet him after he is born on Sept. 16. With just three days left in the auction, Drummond is a long way from the $25,000 she hopes to raise, but a flood of traffic on the site has raised the current bid to $2,550.


The High Costs of Raising Children

Our children, of course, are priceless. But they do have a cost: about a quarter-million dollars.

A new government report estimated that a middle-income family with a child born last year will spend about $221,000 raising that child from birth through age 17, according to the Associated Press. (The number rises to some $292,000 when adjusted for inflation.) The figures don’t count the cost of college or childbirth.

Annual child-rearing expense estimates ranged between $11,610 and $13,480 per-child in married, middle-class family with two children.

The report, by the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said that housing was a family’s single largest expense, followed by food and the costs of child care and education.

Money spent on child-related costs increases as a family’s income goes up. For instance, those with an income between $57,000 and $99,000 spend about $221,000 and those with higher incomes are expected to spend roughly $367,000 through age 17. Costs of raising a child are highest in the urban northeast and lowest in the urban south and rural areas.


Low birth weight can mean higher risk for kidney disease

Newborns less than 5 ½ pounds have a 70% greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease in later life, according to research published in the August issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.

“Experimental studies suggest that restricted growth of a fetus in the womb can interfere with normal kidney development and result in fewer and smaller filtering units, or nephrons, at birth,” said the study’s lead author, Sarah L. White, MPH, of the George Institute and the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia. “Those with low birth weight may therefore be vulnerable to accelerated loss of kidney function later on as a result of any additional injuries to the kidney caused, for example, by accidents, infections or the presence of other risk factors such as diabetes.”

The investigators completed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 32 observational studies from diverse populations, all of which had collected data on birth weight and kidney function at greater than 12 months of age. The meta-analysis found that low birth weight babies (less than 2,500g or 5 ½ pounds) were 70% more likely to develop CKD in later life compared with individuals with normal birth weight. Significant associations were identified between low birth weight and both of the principal markers of CKD-- albuminuria and low estimated glomerular filtration rate. Researchers also found a connection between low birth weight and subsequent development of end-stage kidney disease, or kidney failure.


While comparing data from two large twin studies, investigators found significant differences in kidney function between members of the same set of twins where one twin was smaller, but not among different sets of twins. This suggests that the association between birth weight and kidney function is more closely connected with fetoplacental factors affecting intrauterine growth than with maternal or genetic factors.

“People who were very small at birth should avoid obesity that could lead to diabetes, maintain regular physical activity, avoid medications that could be toxic for the kidneys and see their doctors for simple assessment of chronic kidney disease including blood pressure measurement, a dipstick test for urinary protein and a blood test of serum creatinine level,” said White.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Best Cities For Working Mothers

This year ForbesWoman inaugurates its first annual list of the Best Cities for Working Mothers. To calculate the rankings, they started with the 50 largest cities in the U.S. and the premise that different mothers have different needs. So while it's safe to say that all moms want a secure and protected place for their children to live in, first-rate medical care and excellent schools, if they're running a business or earning a paycheck, there are other important considerations.

The potential for a relatively high income, job opportunities and family-friend cost of living are obvious ones. But childcare is way up there too.

They took a slightly unusual approach to evaluating a city’s health care quality. They realized a mom wants options when it comes to pediatricians; trust and a good rapport are just as important as competence, after all. But they also included information from Dartmouth Atlas, which tracks the quality of health care across the U.S.

They also used two different data sets to evaluate education--the amount a city spends per pupil and ratings given by parents whose own kids attend a city's schools.

Working mothers also want to be able to afford to live (and play) in their city of choice, so they counted cost of living among our priorities.

So here's the list from the best rated to worst, you'll need to visit the website to get a complete breakdown of all the scores in each category:

New York Metro, Austin, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, Portland (OR), Cincinnati, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Seattle-Tacoma, Denver, Louisville, Richmond, Columbus, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, San Francisco/Oakland, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Washington D.C./Alexandria, Raleigh (NC), Philadelphia/Wilmington, Providence, Hartford, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Dallas-Ft Worth, San Antonio, Atlanta, Houston, Greater Los Angeles, Cleveland, Sacramento, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Detroit, Birmingham, Miami/Ft Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Salt Lake City, Tampa, New Orleans, Riverside/San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas.


Mystery Surrounds Prevalence of Twins in Indian Village

Scientists are baffled over why as many as 230 or more sets of twins live in an Indian village of just 15,000 people, according to news reports out today.

The village in North Kerala, India, reportedly has four times more twins than would be expected.

The deluge of doubles remains a mystery, with one doctor suggesting something in the water is the root, according to Reuters. But it could be a sign of the times, as multiple births at least in the United States have skyrocketed over the past few decades, said James Airoldi, Director of Obstetrics at St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network in Pennsylvania.

Under natural conditions (sans a fertility boost), women have about a 1.5 percent chance of having a pregnancy with more than one baby, according to Penn Medicine. Yet the chances of having twins with the use of fertility treatments can be as high as 25 percent, according to the web site of pediatrician Dr. Vincent Iannelli.

Here are some other methods for conceiving twins that have been bandied about yet not scientifically proven:

  • * Folic acid: Some say this vitamin B supplement ups the odds of having twins. "There is a little bit of science behind that," Airoldi said. "People who take extra folic acid may have a slightly higher risk [of having twins]." Either way, doctors strongly recommend pregnant women take the supplement as it helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
  • * Cassava root: Some say this tuber root could be responsible for an overflow of twins in a town in West Africa, where the twin birth rate is reportedly four times higher than the rest of the world. Supposedly, a chemical found in the root's peelings, as well as in local women, could cause the release of more than one egg in pregnancies. Airoldi has not heard of such a link or any science to back it up.
  • * Weight: Women who are slightly overweight are thought to have a higher chance of having twins. There's no scientific evidence that Airoldi knows of to support this claim.
  • * Breastfeeding: If a woman happens to conceive while she is breastfeeding, which doesn't normally happen for biological reasons, she could up her twin chances. This twin tip does make sense, according to Airoldi, who says a woman's estrogen levels go down and levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) could go up while breastfeeding. (FSH plays a role in egg production in women.) The result: More chances of so-called fraternal twins.

Two studies have suggested other things that could affect twin rates:

  • * Milk: A study reported in 2006 in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine suggested women who drink milk are five times more likely to conceive twins than their non-dairy-drinking counterparts. The study attributed the milk-twins link to growth hormones given to cows. The hormones cause a release of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which increases the sensitivity of the ovaries to follicle stimulating hormone, thereby increasing ovulation.
  • * Height: Another study found that taller women, who also have more of this growth factor, have a greater likelihood of conceiving twins than shorter moms.

As for what's behind twin village, a local doctor, M.K. Sribiju, reportedly said some substance in the water could be the cause, perhaps fertility drugs.

To get to the bottom of the mystery, Airoldi said he would want to know whether the twins are mostly identical or fraternal. "When these twins were conceived, what was the age of the mom?" he asked.

"If you had some environmental issue that drove down their estrogen levels and made their FSH levels go up that would increase the risk of fraternal twins," Airoldi said.


Penelope Cruz is Pregnant?

There were suspicions that Penelope Cruz was pregnant when she recently decided to quit smoking. Now, reports that Penelope Cruz is expecting her first child with longtime love Javier Bardem.

“Penelope is about four months pregnant,” a source tells Just Jared. “She’s really healthy now and will be a great mother.”

Penelope may be expecting, but she won’t be tying the knot anytime soon. She told the August issue of UK’s Psychologies magazine, “When I [have babies], I want to do it really well. I want it to be my best project in life. I don’t know if I believe in marriage. I believe in family, love and children.”

Penelope, 35, and Javier, 40, appeared together in three films — Jamón, Jamón, Live Flesh and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Penelope has been in Germany promoting her latest movie, Broken Embrace.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Nude Angelina Jolie Statue to Promote Breastfeeding

For World Breastfeeding Week, Phantom-Financial announces the unveiling of a life-size park bench sculpture of Angelina Jolie nude with her twin babies by New York artist Daniel Edwards just minutes from Brad Pitt's own birthplace in the Oklahoma City Metro area in September before its Fall exhibition in London.

"Landmark for Breastfeeding," inspired by last year's cover of W magazine featuring Angelina Jolie suckling her baby, depicts a seated nude Jolie double-breastfeeding twins. The tranquil bronze statue demonstrates the "football-hold," an accepted technique for breastfeeding two babies simultaneously.

In recognition of the global effort to encourage breastfeeding, one twin is depicted as being of African descent. Future castings of the statue will represent other world cultures through variations of the babies' patina coloring.

"We believe the statue sends a beautiful message by promoting the acceptance of public breastfeeding. Mothers should be encouraged to nurture their babies anywhere," said Sandy Wilson of Phantom-Financial.

"Hopefully, my sculpture inspires an increase of wet nurses to assist women who have concerns about mastitis, or passing HIV to their infant," said artist Daniel Edwards in his Connecticut studio where the Jolie statue currently resides.

"La Leche League International and Loretta McCallister have been very helpful," said project coordinator Cory Allen. "We are applying for approval to put 'Landmark for Breastfeeding' on permanent display in a Metro area park."

The Jolie monument will be unveiled September 11th at MAINSITE Contemporary Art in Norman.

A cast of the sculpture is expected to be auctioned by Sotheby's October 7th for The New York Academy of Art's annual Take Home A Nude art auction, after being displayed at Holster Projects in London's West End.

Edwards's past works of celebrity motherhood include "Monument to Pro-Life," featuring Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug, and "Octomom: String of Babies."


Hear from the artist himself:

Melissa Joan Hart's Birth Story Part 1

The first installment of Melissa Joan Hart's birth story is available for viewing. Let me warn you though, if you are thinking of inducing - this video might have you second guessing that decision. Click here to see the video.

Also, in case you missed it, the final installment of Cindy Crawford's birth story is also available. Her story is empowering for anyone considering a homebirth or birth with a midwife. Although, those who have undergone a hospital birth might be a bit miffed at some of her comments that insinuate that you don't birth your own baby if you aren't doing it with a midwife. Click here to see the final installment of Cindy Crawford's story.

Mom Allergic to Her Newborn Son

All Joanne Mackie wanted was to hold and comfort her infant son. But shortly after giving birth, the 28-year-old British woman developed a mysterious rash that was so painful, it completely stopped her from acting on her natural instincts.

"It was such a heartbreaking time," Mackie told the Daily Mail.

What started as tingling in her palms the morning after James, now 11 months old, was born spread into blistering welts within a day. For relief, Mackie took to wrapping her arms in wet cloths so she could hold her son, but the pain only worsened. Subsequently, her husband, Robert, 37, took care of James.

Doctors were initially stumped for a diagnosis. Eventually, a skin biopsy revealed she suffered from a rare skin condition - called pemphigoid gestitonis - that afflicts pregnant women and new moms. Simply put, Mackie was allergic to her son.

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pemphigoid gestitionis is a skin condition in which blisters appear on the abdomen and, in the worst cases, over large regions of the body. Women can develop the condition during the second or third trimester and after giving birth. In the rarest of cases, children can be born with the rash. The Daily Mail reports that doctors told Mackie she could not pass the rash to her son.

Approximately 1 in 50,000 women suffer from pemphigoid gestitionis, according to a Michigan State University study. Why women get the rash is still unknown, but the blisters and welts appear when antibodies are formed during pregnancy that attack normal proteins in the body. Treatment includes taking oatmeal baths and avoiding getting overheated, which worsens the itching sensation, according to ACOG. Doctors might also administer medication to ease the pain, as they did for Mackie, who took steroids.

Today, Mackie, who originally sold her story to, is clear of the rash but dark spots remain on her body as a reminder of the difficult period.

"I have learned that a cuddle from your own child is the most precious thing in the world," she said.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Pregnant Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs Out and About

Private Practice star Taye Diggs and his pregnant wife, Broadway star Idina Menzel, walk arm in arm as they enjoy a romantic stroll through West Hollywood on Saturday (August 1).

Taye, 38, and Idina, 37, are reportedly expecting a baby boy next month but the couple has not confirmed the news. The baby, due later this year, will be the first child for the two of them.


Pre-eclampsia should prompt doctors to induce labor

Women with mild or severe high blood pressure during pregnancy - a condition known as pre-eclampsia - should have labor induced after 37 weeks' gestation, according to a new study.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that develops in the second or third trimester of pregnancy and involves the development of high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.

Dr. Corine M. Koopmans, from University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues assigned 756 women to induction of labor, using intravenous hormones or by breaking the water sac, or expectant management, in which obstetricians closely monitor the pregnancy. These women were drawn from an eligible group of 1153 women, of whom 397 refused to take part in the trial, permitted use of their medical records.

In women beyond 37 weeks' gestation, inducing labor cut the risks of severe high blood pressure and the need for cesarean section. No infants or mothers died in either group, Koopmans' team reports in The Lancet.

Based on the study, writes Dr. Donna D. Johnson, from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, in a related editorial, inducing labor in women with high blood pressure during pregnancy "should be incorporated into clinical practice."


World Breastfeeding Week begins today

World Breastfeeding Week begins today and will come to an end on the 7th, although events will continue for months ahead. The theme of WBW this year is "Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response, Are you ready?"


  • * To draw attention to the vital role that breastfeeding plays in emergencies worldwide.
  • * To stress the need for active protection and support of breastfeeding before and during emergencies.
  • * To inform mothers, breastfeeding advocates, communities, health professionals, governments, aid agencies, donors, and the media on how they can actively support breastfeeding before and during an emergency.
  • * To mobilise action and nurture networking and collaboration between those with breastfeeding skills and those involved in emergency response.


  • * Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies – child mortality can soar from 2 to 70 times higher than average due to diarrhoea, respiratory illness and malnutrition.
  • * Breastfeeding is a life saving intervention and protection is greatest for the youngest infants. Even in non-emergency settings, non-breastfed babies under 2 months of age are six times more likely to die.
  • * Emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. Emergencies destroy what is ‘normal,’ leaving caregivers struggling to cope and infants vulnerable to disease and death.
  • * During emergencies, mothers need active support to continue or re-establish breastfeeding.
  • * Emergency preparedness is vital. Supporting breastfeeding in non-emergency settings will strengthen mothers’ capacity to cope in an emergency.


New study recommends pregnant women start an exercise program

Physicians should recommend low to moderate levels of exercise to their pregnant patients, even if they have not exercised prior to pregnancy, states a report published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS). According to this review article, exercise can strengthen and improve overall musculoskeletal and physiologic health as well as pregnancy related symptoms. Exercise such as aerobics, impact and nonimpact activities, resistance training and swimming:

  • * eases back and other musculoskeletal pain;
  • * lowers maternal blood pressure;
  • * reduces swelling; and
  • * improves post-partum mood, including sadness.

According to study author Capt. Marlene DeMaio, M.D., M.C., U.S.N., Research Director, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia, data shows that the pregnant woman's body can compensate for the changes with no harm to the fetus during low to moderate intensity exercise.

"It is important to remember that pregnancy is a temporary condition, not a disease, and that the musculoskeletal and physiologic changes that happen are normal in the majority of patients," she said.

Capt. DeMaio's findings contradict what some physicians recommended in the past. As recently as the 1990s, there was concern that exercise could be detrimental to a pregnant woman and her fetus. These past concerns included a focus on normal changes related to musculoskeletal health that occur during pregnancy, such as increased ligament laxity, weight gain and change in the center of gravity. Today, some physicians continue to advise their pregnant patients to ease back on exercise or refrain from it altogether if they have not already made it a part of their lifestyle.

DeMaio, who collaborated with Capt. Everett Magann, M.D., M.C. U.S.N., Chairman in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, not only reports that exercise is important during pregnancy, but also believes that starting an exercise program when pregnant, is a perfect way to begin - and stick with - a fitness program.

"When a woman becomes pregnant, she often re-evaluates her lifestyle," said Dr. DeMaio. "She is motivated in a new way to deliver a healthy baby, and be healthy herself."

Physicians may recommend exercise for pregnant patients in the following categories:

  • * Prenatal: Patients should begin or continue low to moderate exercise. The goal is to maintain fitness and adapt exercise as needed as pregnancy progresses. (For example, runners might switch to running in a swimming pool later in their pregnancy.)
  • * Postnatal: Continue exercising at low to moderate levels. Lactation is not negatively affected by exercise. There are fewer reports of mothers having post-partum depression or mood changes when they are exercising.
  • * Older: Exercise is even more important if the patient is older, according to Dr. DeMaio. The risk for high blood pressure and increased glucose goes up the older a patient is, but exercise can help reduce these levels.
  • * Obese: Physicians should discuss pregnancy as an opportunity to improve overall health and suggest the patient start exercise for life-long health and as an example to the child when the child is older.
  • * Infertile: Even if a woman is under treatment for infertility, she can exercise under the supervision of her obstetrician.
  • * Athlete: For a pregnant woman wanting more strenuous exercise, or who wants to increase training from moderate to high intensity, a qualified doctor should direct her exercise program.


Prenatal Alchohol, Low Birth Weight Linked to Lifelong Sleep Disturbances

According to a latest study, consuming alcohol during pregnancy and small body size at birth may perhaps predict poorer sleep and increased chances of sleep disorders in 8-year-old children born at term. At least that’s what experts from the organization of American Academy of Sleep Medicine have to say.

These findings are clinically important, as poor sleep and sleep disturbances in children are believed to be linked with various diseases. These seem to include obesity, depressive symptoms, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and poor neurobehavioral functioning.

The findings indicated that lower weight and shorter length at birth seemed to be associated with lower sleep efficiency. In addition, a lower ponderal index appears to be related with the presence of sleep disturbances. This index is known to be an indicator of fetal growth status. It was further observed that, children with short sleep duration were more susceptible to have been born through Cesarean section in contrast to children who sleep for a longer period of time.

Chief investigator Katri Raikkonen, PhD, in the department of psychology at the University of Helsinki, Finland claimed that even low levels of weekly prenatal exposure to alcohol could have undesirable effects on sleep quantity and quality during childhood.

“The results were in accordance with the fetal origins of health and disease hypothesis and the many studies that have shown that adverse fetal environment may have lifelong influences on health and behavior. However, this is among the few studies that have reported associations between birth variables and sleep quality and quantity among an otherwise healthy population of children.” says Raikkonen.

To better understand this criterion, experts seemed to have collected information from nearly 289 children born at term from 37 to 42 weeks of gestation. Apparently, they objectively measured sleep duration and sleep efficiency with the help of actigraphy at 8 years of age for an average of 7.1 days. Sleep efficiency appears to be the actual sleep time divided by the time in bed. Also, parents were noted to have completed the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children in order to report sleep problems and sleep disorder symptoms such as bedtime resistance and sleep disordered breathing.

The authors claimed that small body size at birth may possibly function as a basic indicator of disturbances in the fetal environment. Supposedly, small body size is associated with prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation, prenatal alcohol exposure and poorer sleep quality in children and young adults.

The findings further demonstrated that amongst children born healthy and at full-term, a direct relationship appears to exist between smaller body size at birth and poorer sleep quality eight years from birth.

The findings of the study revealed that the possibilities for low sleep efficiency seemed to have increased by about 70 percent for every standard variation decrease in weight at birth. Furthermore, it increased by more than 200 percent for every decrease in length. It was estimated that for every standard deviation decrease in ponderal index at birth, the risk of parent-reported sleep disorders increased by 40 percent.

However, associations were not confounded by various factors. These factors included sex, gestational length, prenatal and perinatal complications, body mass index (BMI) at eight years of age, asthma, allergies or parental socioeconomic condition.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Sleep.


Yale scientists develop placenta measurement technique to prevent pregnancy loss

To combat the many fetal deaths that occur annually because the placenta is too small, researchers at Yale School of Medicine have developed a method to measure the volume of the placenta, which provides nourishment to the fetus.

Limits in current technology keep doctors from being able to monitor the growth of the placenta, which, like the gas tank of a car, is the source of fuel for the fetus. The placenta can be so small that the fetus literally runs out of food and oxygen and dies, according to lead author Harvey J. Kliman, M.D., a research scientist in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. He and his colleagues published the results of their findings in the August 3 issue of the American Journal of Perinatology.

Fetal death, or intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD), affects 30,000 women each year in the United States. Until now, there has been no easy way to determine how much “gas” is left in the placenta’s tank.

Kliman decided to study this issue after noting that many late-term pregnancy losses were associated with very small placentas. He theorized that in much the same way that an obstetrician uses ultrasounds to follow the growth of the fetus, or a pediatrician weighs and measures children to ensure they are growing normally, the growth of the fetus’ placenta could be monitored.

When Kliman asked perinatologists (maternal fetal medicine specialists) why they did not look at the placenta when performing routine ultrasounds, the answer was always the same: The placenta is a curved structure and is too difficult to measure. If they had to measure the placental volume they would need a very expensive machine, specialized training and more time.

With the help of his father, Merwin Kliman, a mathematician and electrical engineer, Kliman developed an equation that used the maximal width, height and thickness of the placenta. Kliman and his team at Yale then validated the method by comparing the volume predicted by the Estimated Placenta Volume (EPV) equation taken just before delivery to the actual weight of the placenta at the time of delivery.

“In this study, we showed that the equation predicted the actual placental weight with an accuracy of up to 89 percent,” said Kliman. “The method works best during the second and early third trimesters, just when routine ultrasound screening is done on many women in the U.S.”

In addition to validating the equation, the team is also collecting EPV data from centers around the world to create the normative curves that doctors can use to determine if the placenta is normal, too small or even too big. “I hope that the EPV test becomes routine for pregnant women,” said Kliman.


Protein 'key to premature births'

Premature labour, the major cause of death and disability among babies, may be prevented by blocking a key protein, a study suggests.

Infection is now a recognised trigger of preterm birth, but some women seem to go into labour early even when the infection is trivial.

Researchers at Imperial College London say they can isolate the protein which seems to spark this reaction.

Premature births have been estimated to cost the UK nearly £1bn every year.

Very premature babies often die within the first few days of life, while many others can spend months in intensive care.

Those who do survive are at risk of developing serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness, as well as learning difficulties.

The protein - Toll-like receptor 4, or TLR4 - is found on the surface of the cells.

When it recognises bacteria, it sparks inflammation, and it is this which appears to induce premature birth.

However while bacteria are found in the womb of most pregnant women, the vast majority do not respond in this way.

And while the reaction is thought to have an evolutionary basis - potentially saving the life of the mother when a serious bug is present - it occurs in women who have no such infection.

The team at Imperial College London said they had found a way of effectively shutting down this reaction.

Professor Philip Bennett, lead researcher from the Clinical Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Imperial College London, said: "We are excited about the findings of this research as we have now discovered how to block a key pathway which leads to premature birth.

"Although more research needs to be done, we believe this is a step forward in the development of treatments to prevent premature birth."