Friday, August 28, 2009

Stretching May Prevent Preeclampsia

Vigorous exercise can lower a woman’s risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension, or preeclampsia, a complication that affects up to 8 percent of pregnancies. But a new study suggests an even simpler tactic: stretching.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assigned 79 pregnant women with a previous preeclampsia diagnosis and a sedentary lifestyle to either a walking or a stretching regimen. Almost 15 percent of the walkers developed preeclampsia compared with less than 3 percent of the stretchers. It’s not that walking doesn’t help, the researchers say. But stretching may be especially good because it releases more of a special kind of protein called transferrin, which protects against stress on the body.

Find some great stretches that are safe during pregnancy here.


SIGG Bottles Found to Contain BPA

Jeremiah of ZRecommends recently reported the bad news about SIGG bottles. It seems the "Swiss sports and children's bottle maker SIGG has admitted what many consumer advocates have suspected for years, but never proven: That the epoxy lining used for years in SIGG bottles — which they secretly swapped out for a new liner last summer — contained the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A" (also known as BPA).

Great...And mothers across the nation have been forking out oodles of cash for these aluminum water bottles for their families because they believed them to be ├╝ber-safe.

Based on Jeremiah's findings, it sounds like no BPA leaches from the old SIGG linings; however, the linings do CONTAIN BPA. So take that information as you will. I'm more fired up that SIGG seemingly took advantage of a market "on edge" about the risks of BPA and made tons of money off our fear. SIGG bottles are not cheap either.

You can read more about this SIGG cover-up story over on ZRecommends, and you can also find out:

  • How to figure out if your SIGG bottle is affected (mostly those purchased before August 2008), and
  • How to demand a replacement from SIGG USA (email or call them at (203) 321-1220).

Too Much Testosterone Disrupts Family Life

A man's spit may indicate what kind of father and husband he is. In polygamous societies, men with high levels of testosterone in their saliva are more likely to take several wives and give their children less attention, compared to those with less of the sex hormone coursing through their bodies.

The new study of rural Senegalese villagers adds to previous work underscoring testosterone's critical role in a mating and parenting.

High testosterone levels have been linked to increased sexual activity, infidelity and marital conflict. However, after men become fathers, their bodies typically pump out less of the hormone.

"This is good for us, so we can adapt to social challenges very quickly," says Alexandra Alvergne, an anthropologist at the University of Montpellier, France, and the University of Sheffield, UK, who led the new study.

To find out whether testosterone's connection to mating and parenting also applies in societies where men may have several wives, Alvergne measured testosterone levels in 21 polygynous fathers as well as 32 monogamous dads and 28 unmarried men without children, all living in Senegalese villages. She also asked the men's wives how much time and money their husband devoted to his family.

No matter how many wives they had, fathers had lower testosterone levels than single men, on average, Alvergne and her colleagues found. Among fathers, those with more testosterone tended to invest less time in their wives and children. And polygynous men under the age of 50 produced more testosterone than monogamous men, on average.

Older men with more than one wife made less of the sex hormone than other men. While older men may make less testosterone, they typically enjoy more prestige in their villages, which could make it easier to find multiple wives, Alvergne suggests.

"I think the evidence is piling up" that testosterone affects mating and parenting in humans, says Peter Ellison, an anthropologist at Harvard University.

Genetics plays some role in determining how much testosterone men produce, but culture, fatherhood and other factors tinker with its levels over a lifetime.

"If you have a young child – a young baby – that you're at times responsible for, it would be really good to lower your testosterone. Not only are you less likely to forget the child and pursue some other mating opportunity but your temper may be lowered," Ellison says.

While it isn't clear exactly how fatherhood tempers testosterone levels, Ellison and others believe that paternal behaviour feeds into the endocrine system to crank down its natural levels.

In cultures where men aren't expected to be outstanding fathers and are constantly on the lookout for potential mates, testosterone levels tend to stay high, Ellison says. "It's not that polygynists somehow have different genes that make them polygynists."


Thursday, August 27, 2009

What Pregnant Women Should Know About H1N1 (formerly called swine flu) Virus

What if I get this new virus and I am pregnant?

We don’t know if this virus will cause pregnant women to have a greater chance of getting sick or have serious problems. We also do not know how this virus will affect the baby.

We do know that pregnant women are more likely to get sick than others and have more serious problems with seasonal flu. These problems may include early labor or severe pneumonia. We don’t know if this virus will do the same, but it should be taken very seriously.

What can I do to protect myself, my baby and my family?

Take these everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs and protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based gel hand cleaners are also good to use.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. (If you are pregnant and you live or have close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu, talk to your doctor about medicines to prevent flu.)
  • Have a plan to care for sick family members.
  • Stock up on household, health, and emergency supplies, such as water, Tylenol®, non-perishable foods.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

Washing with soap and water

  • Use warm water.
  • Wash for 15 to 20 seconds.

Using alcohol-based gel hand cleaner

  • Don’t add water.
  • Rub the gel on your hands until dry.

What are the symptoms of H1N1?

Symptoms are like seasonal flu and include the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills and fatigue
  • Sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting

What should I do if I get sick?

  • If there is H1N1 flu in your community pay extra attention to your body and how you are feeling.
  • If you get sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home, limit contact with others, and call your doctor. Your doctor will decide if testing or treatment is needed. Tests may include a nasal swab which is best to do within the first 4-5 days of getting sick. Like regular flu, H1N1 flu may make other medical problems worse.
  • If you are alone at any time, have someone check in with you often if you are feeling ill. This is always a good idea.
  • If you have close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu or is being treated for exposure to H1N1 flu, contact your doctor to discuss whether you need treatment to reduce your chances of getting the flu.

How is H1N1 flu treated?

  • Treat any fever right away. Tylenol® (acetaminophen) is the best treatment of fever in pregnancy.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace those you lose when you are sick.
  • Your doctor will decide if you need antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) or Relenza® (zanamivir). Antiviral drugs are prescription pills, liquids or inhalers that fight against the flu by keeping the germs from growing in your body. These medicines can make you feel better faster and make your symptoms milder.
  • These medicines work best when started soon after symptoms begin (within two [2] days), but they may also be given to very sick or high risk people (like pregnant women) even after 48 hours. Antiviral treatment is taken for 5 days.
  • Tamiflu® and Relenza® are also used to prevent H1N1 flu and are taken for 10 days.
  • There is little information about the effect of antiviral drugs in pregnant women or their babies, but no serious side effects have been reported. If you do think you have had a side effect to antiviral drugs, call your doctor right away.

When should I get emergency medical care?

If you have any of these signs, seek emergency medical care right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Decreased or no movement of your baby
  • A high fever that is not responding to Tylenol®

How should I feed my baby?

Flu can be very serious in young babies. Babies who are breastfed do not get as sick and are sick less often from the flu, than do babies who are not breastfed.

Breastfeeding protects babies. Breast milk passes on antibodies from the mother to a baby. Antibodies help fight off infection.

Is it ok to breastfeed my baby if I am sick?

  • A mother’s milk is made to fight diseases in her baby. This is really important in young babies when their immune system is still growing.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding if you are ill. Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection.
  • Be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face, wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Your doctor might ask you to wear a mask to keep from spreading this new virus to your baby.
  • If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.

Is it OK to take medicine to treat or prevent H1N1 flu while breastfeeding?

Yes. Mothers who are breastfeeding can continue to nurse their babies while being treated for the flu.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cash for Cribs? Toys 'R Us Takes Aim at Old Baby Gear

The government's "Cash for Clunkers" program has shown that consumers are willing to bite at a good deal. And what's a better deal than trading in old, unwanted items to get a discount on a replacement?

Long before "Clunkers" showed up on the scene, Toys R Us began working on its own trade-in program, aimed at getting potentially unsafe cribs, car seats and other baby items out of circulation.

In drafting the program, it consulted with manufacturers of baby gear, such as Newell-Rubbermaid's Graco, and child safety advocates. But then the government announced its wildly successful trade-in program, and the retailer wondered what impact that would have on its own plans.

"We wondered if that was going to create 'good excitement' or 'bad,'" said Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch. But ultimately, the company realized that "Clunkers" had the positive goal of putting more environmentally friendly cars on the road.

"That's a great cause," he said. "We're working for improvements in child safety, and that's a great cause, too."

The way the program works is very simple: consumers can trade in a crib, car seat or a number of other baby products for a 20 percent discount on a new item at the store.

The retailer will begin accepting the used cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs and other items on Friday, and will continue to do so until Sept. 20 at all Babies R Us and Toys R Us stores. There are no limits to the number of products that can be redeemed, and a person doesn't need to swap a like item for a like item. (In other words, you can bring in a car seat and get a discount on a play yard if you'd like.) Once collected, the products will be destroyed.

"There has been a rush to the cheap in this economy," Storch said. "...Cheap is not always good when it comes to safety."

Tough economic times have parents looking to save money and turning to second-hand baby items. However, some types of baby gear aren't well-suited for being handed down or resold. Recalls, wear and tear, and improving standards can make these products unsafe.

Take recalls. According to consumer advocacy organization Kids in Danger, less than 30 percent of baby items are returned to the manufacturer when a recall is issued. That means there's an awful lot of recalled cribs still in circulation.

Beyond recalls, used equipment can be damaged even if it isn't immediately visible. Car seats that have been in a vehicle that was in an accident can often get damaged. Also, materials used to make car seats can degrade over time, and their parts or instruction books may be missing, which can lead to improper use.

Improving safety standards for cribs also has made many older ones obsolete. Toys R Us has recently stopped placing orders for drop-side crib models, which have been involved in numerous safety recalls prompted by infants that became trapped between the frame and the mattress.

"We know consumers want to stretch their dollars," he said. "...This provides an incentive so we can lure those products out of the commerce stream."


New Link Between Pre-eclampsia And Diet

A chemical compound found in unpasteurised food has been detected in unusually high levels in the red blood cells of pregnant women with the condition pre-eclampsia.

These results are important because they suggest that the compound, 'ergothioneine', is an indicator of pre-eclampsia and may help scientists to understand the cause of the condition, which is currently unknown.

Scientists at the University of Leeds took blood samples from a group of thirty-seven pregnant women and compared the red blood cells from women with pre-eclampsia with the red blood cells from women with no symptoms.

In results published in the journal Reproductive Sciences, chemists found a significantly higher concentration of the ergothioneine - a compound made by fungi - in the red blood cells of the women with pre-eclampsia.

Ergothioneine is already well known to be made by micro-organisms that are commonly found in foods such as unpasteurised dairy products. As it cannot be synthesised by humans it finds its way into human cells exclusively through our diet.

The NHS does not advise against pregnant women eating fungi or foods such as unpasteurised dairy products which contain ergothioneine producing fungi. In fact scientific studies on animals highlight the benefit of ergothioneine.

"These results suggest that a higher level of ergothioneine is an indicator of pre-eclampsia," says Dr Julie Fisher, a chemist at the University of Leeds who lead the research.

"I would not recommend that pregnant women stop eating fungi. However, the high concentration of ergothioneine in the red blood cells of women with pre-eclampsia is a very interesting finding – the more we know about the chemicals involved in the disease the closer we get to understanding what causes it," says Professor James Walker, Professor of Obstetrics at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine (LIMM), and a co-author of the research.

The symptoms of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure, protein in urine and fluid retention and affects almost 10% of pregnancies after 20 weeks. Left untreated, the condition can cause a range of problems such as growth restriction in babies and even foetal and maternal mortality. There is no known cause of the condition.

"Ergothioneine is known as an antioxidant and antioxidants have been proposed to be helpful in reducing the risk of preeclampsia. It is therefore very interesting that we have found it to be in excess for women with the condition," says Dr Fisher.


Drinking during Labor Now Recommended

Expectant mamas going through marathon labors can now quench their thirst with more than ice chips. For the first time in several decades, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has modified their liquid intake guidelines allowing women to drink clear beverages during labor.

According to the new recommendations:

"Women with a normal, uncomplicated labor may drink modest amounts of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp, carbonated beverages, clear tea, black coffee, and sports drinks. Fluids with solid particles, such as soup, should be avoided, however. Women who have uncomplicated pregnancies and are scheduled for a cesarean delivery may also drink these clear liquids up to two hours before anesthesia is administered."

It seems that the reason for limiting women to ice chips was to avoid aspiration – food and liquid entering the lungs – in the event of an emergency anesthetization. The decline of maternal death due to aspiration has lead to the new recommendations, which should be welcomed news for thirsty mamas.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

High Levels of Weed Killer in Drinking Water Linked to Birth Defects: Not Disclosed to Public

According to an investigative report published in the Huffington Post, a weed killer linked to birth defects and used extensively throughout the country on farms and golf courses is seeping into our nation’s drinking water supply at alarming levels, which exceed federal safety limits in four states. But the public is kept in the dark about the hidden dangers in the drinking water.

The weed killer is an herbicide named, atrazine and is manufactured by the Swiss company, Syngenta. When the EPA renewed approval for atrazine to be used in the U.S., the agency imposed new testing requirements on the company, requiring the company to test the levels of atrazine in the water of about 150 watersheds on a weekly basis. The results are sent to the EPA, state regulators and local water companies, but they are not made available to the public. Neither the EPA nor the water companies are legally required to do so.

Under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is only required to make public, the testing results conducted by state regulators and state regulators only test the drinking water, up to a maximum of four times per year. In practice, the state testing is infrequent and doesn’t provide complete information about temporary, but harmful spikes in the levels of atrazine in the drinking water.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund obtained the records of the test results conducted by Syngenta from 2003 through 2008, through the Freedom of Information Act, and found alarming average yearly levels of atrazine in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, as well as temporary spikes that exceeded safety levels. The levels detected would have triggered an automatic notification to water customers, but since the results did not come from state tests, customers weren’t notified of the danger.

The EPA says it does not consider atrazine a health hazard and that it complied with all applicable laws regarding reporting test results to the public. Although it’s true the EPA found that the herbicide is “not likely” to be a carcinogen; the agency does officially consider atrazine to be a potential hormone disruptor.

Additionally, several peer-reviewed scientific studies found that atrazine was potentially harmful to developing fetuses. One study found that birth defect rates in the United States were highest for women who conceived during periods of atrazine spikes in the water supply.


Preemie Birth Could Mean Weaker Bones as Adults

Adults who were born preterm with a very low birth weight have significantly lower bone mineral density than those who were born at full term, a Finnish study has found.

The researchers evaluated the skeletal health of 144 adults, aged 18 to 27, who were born preterm with very low birth weight.

Because they have much lower bone mineral density, these adults may be at increased risk for osteoporosis, said Dr. Petteri Hovi and colleagues at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki.

The study appears online Aug. 24 in the journal PLoS Medicine.


Glucose Challenge in Pregnancy Could Predict Heart Disease

A glucose challenge test given to pregnant women may also show if they have an increased risk of heart disease in the future, a new study has found.

This finding is important because doctors might be able to begin using current screening procedures for gestational diabetes to identify women who are at risk for developing heart disease later in life, the researchers said. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States and Canada.

While women with gestational diabetes -- a condition leading to temporarily high blood sugars during pregnancy -- have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without, no one knew if mild glucose intolerance in pregnancy is associated with heart disease, the study authors noted.

Gestational diabetes is an important risk factor for future type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women are generally screened for gestational diabetes with a glucose challenge test in the second trimester. If the result is abnormal, they have an oral glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis, according to information in a news release about the study, which is published in the current issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

For the study, researchers examined data on 435,696 women in Ontario who gave birth between April 1994 and March 1998. All of the women were followed until March 31, 2008, and the study excluded women who had preexisting diabetes.

"Women who had an abnormal glucose challenge test but then did not have gestational diabetes had an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease compared to the general population, but a lower risk than women who actually did have gestational diabetes," co-author Dr. Baiju Shah, of the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.


Small Birth Size Linked to Sleep Problems Later

Children who were born at a relatively small size may be more likely than their peers to have sleep difficulties, a new study suggests.

The study, which included 289 8-year-olds born healthy and full-term, found that the lower the children's weight and length at birth, the greater their odds of having poor sleep or sleep disturbances such as sleep-related breathing problems or nightmares.

What's more, mothers' prenatal drinking -- a habit that can impair fetal growth and development -- was linked to a greater risk of childhood sleep problems.

It's possible that in some children, smaller birth size is a marker of alterations in nervous system development, which might affect the body's sleep regulation later in life, the researchers report in the journal Sleep.

"We showed that even within children born healthy and at-term gestation, smaller body size at birth increases the risk for poor sleep," lead researcher Dr. Anu-Katriina Pesonen, of the University of Helsinki in Finland, told Reuters Health in an email.

That does not mean, however, that every child born at a relatively small size is destined for sleep difficulties. For one, birth size is partially determined by genetics, and Pesonen said it's possible that the current findings do not pertain to newborns who are simply naturally on the smaller size.

On the other hand, she said, factors that can impair normal fetal growth -- which, besides prenatal drinking, include prenatal smoking and high chronic stress levels -- may help set the stage for sleep problems later on.

For their study, Pesonen and her colleagues had each child wear an actigraph -- a watch-like device that measures sleep and activity patterns -- for one week. Their parents also completed a standard questionnaire on childhood sleep disturbances.

In general, the researchers found, the smaller a child was at birth, the greater the likelihood of sleep disturbances or low sleep efficiency.

Sleep efficiency refers to a person's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep once the head hits the pillow. In this study, 26 children had low sleep efficiency -- spending roughly three-quarters or less of their time in bed actually asleep.

The researchers also found an association between sleep problems and mothers' prenatal drinking, even at relatively moderate levels.

Among children whose mothers had consumed more than one drink per week during pregnancy, the risks of short sleep duration -- less than 7.5 hours per night -- and low sleep efficiency were about three times higher compared with other children.

Prenatal smoking was not linked to sleep problems. However, Pesonen's team notes, this could be because few mothers in the study said they had smoked during pregnancy, limiting the study's ability to find an association.