Friday, September 18, 2009

Great Baby Shower Ideas

Carley Roney, editor in chief of shared some tips for making your baby shower a charming occasion from the invitations and favors to food, games and gifts.


Custom baby book invitation from Ceci New York, sample keepsake of best parenting tips.

For hosts who want to really go over the top, we love the idea of actually designing a baby shower invitation as though it's a book. This is an invitation that's a play on the children's book "Madeline," and all of the artwork is custom-drawn by Ceci New York. We added text about the upcoming baby shower, and in the back is an insert where guests can actually write their favorite parenting tip for the mom-to-be. Guests bring the inserts to the shower so it can all be put together to make a personalized parenting manual and keepsake.

Video Invitation

A huge trend in invitations now is making a video e-vite! The baby shower hosts can just make a video at-home and send it out via email to the guests. Great option for a last-minute invite that needs to go out too; and it's budget-friendly! You just create a little video, do it with a webcam and e-mail it out to your guests.


Candy Baby Socks

Candy baby socks are a cute way to give candies as a baby shower favor. Just buy a bunch of baby socks, fill them up with assorted candies, and tie pairs of socks with a ribbon. Some guests can even send the socks back to the mom-to-be a few weeks later so she can use them.

"Shower" Umbrellas

Take the idea of a baby shower literally and gift guests with umbrellas! Personalize the umbrellas with tags of guest names. They're practical gifts that guests will actually use.


Pickles & Ice Cream

Everyone knows there's a saying that moms-to-be crave pickles and ice cream. So play off that idea and set up a pickles and ice cream craving station! We've set up jars of different pickle flavors and paired it with ice cream. Guests can add their own favorite topping to it too.

Milkshakes and Mini Cupcakes

Another huge pregnancy craving is sweets! You can pair mini cupcakes with little "shots" of milkshakes in different flavors.


Designer Onesies

This is the perfect crafty baby shower game that even non-mommy guests will love too. Just buy packs of little white onesies for future baby, along with fabric markers. Have guests design their own couture onesie for the baby and the mom-to-be gets to pick her favorite! Plus, the baby now has tons of new, custom clothes! Make sure you buy different sized onesies so baby can wear it as he grows.

Baby Face

This is a hilarious game that will get baby shower guests laughing! Give each guest color headshots of the mom- and dad-to-be, and a sheet of paper with the outline of a baby's head. Ask guests to make a one-of-a-kind baby face by cutting out and gluing the eyes, nose, mouth and other features from the parents-to-be photos. Mom-to-be picks her favorite look to determine the winner.

Nursery Rhyme Karaoke

Who doesn't love karaoke?! You can use either a karaoke machine with a nursery rhyme CD or just play some nursery rhymes over an iPod. Break guests into teams and have them sing along with the nursery rhymes, but at certain points of the song, the hosts stop the music and guests have to try to sing out and remember the lyrics. The team that remembers the most lyrics and sings the best, wins!


Diaper Delivery

Babies go through tons of diapers, which means new parents are constantly running out to buy more. has a Subscribe & Save program where you can buy one, two, three or even five months worth of diapers. You get to choose from Pampers, Huggies, Seventh Generation and a variety of different diaper brands. Plus, it's free shipping and you save 15 percent.

Non-Diaper Looking Diaper Bag

No mom-to-be wants to wear a diaper bag that actually looks like one!


New parents are incredibly conscious about what's on and around baby. A basket of eco-friendly goodies is the perfect gift, such as organic teething toys, organic onesies and even organic hooded towels.


The Weirdest Cakes for Moms and Moms-to-be

Between baby showers, birth celebrations and Mother's day these have to be some of the weirdest cakes moms have ever received:

Source Source

Glaxo Linked Birth Defect of Fetus to Paxil

Officials of GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the U.K.’s largest drugmaker, said in 2001 that a birth defect in the fetus of a woman taking its Paxil antidepressant likely was linked to the drug, according to court testimony.

After analyzing a 2001 e-mail from a Paxil user who aborted her fetus because it had a heart defect, Glaxo officials noted in company files they were “almost certain” the drug was related to the problem, Jane Nieman, a former Glaxo drug-safety executive, told a Pennsylvania jury.

“I don’t know who made that assessment, but it’s there,” Nieman testified in a videotaped deposition played yesterday for jurors. Nieman’s testimony came in the trial of another Paxil user’s lawsuit over birth defects suffered by her now 3-year-old son.

The state-court trial in Philadelphia is the first of more than 600 cases alleging Glaxo knew Paxil caused birth defects and hid those risks to increase profits. The drug, approved for U.S. use in 1992, generated about $942 million in sales last year, 2.1 percent of Glaxo’s total revenue.

The family of Lyam Kilker claims Glaxo withheld information from consumers and regulators about the risk of birth defects and failed to properly test Paxil. Lyam’s mother, Michelle David, blames Paxil for causing her son’s life-threatening heart defects.

Glaxo’s lawyers contend the London-based drugmaker isn’t liable for Lyam’s heart defects and acted responsibly in testing Paxil and updating safety information.

Glaxo officials learned about the woman’s experience with Paxil in 2001 after she e-mailed the company seeking information on studies done about Paxil’s links to birth defects, said Nieman, who was the company’s director for evaluation and training for global clinical safety at the time.

The woman, whose identity was withheld by Glaxo, said she’d been taking Paxil for anxiety when she found out she was pregnant, Neiman said. The woman praised Paxil as a “miracle drug” that provided relief from panic attacks, the executive added.

“If there is a chance that this might hurt or affect the baby I want to know up front and I will somehow stop taking it for the time being,” the woman said in the e-mail. “I love everything this drug has done for me. Please contact me as soon as possible. Please don’t forget about me.”

Nieman said she didn’t know who at Glaxo made the note in the company’s database that the aborted fetus’ heart defects were likely linked to the woman’s Paxil use.

“Somebody from GSK filled that in,” she said. “There’s a possibility someone made a mistake and checked the box wrong.”

Lawyers for Kilker allege Glaxo mounted a marketing campaign to persuade doctors to write more Paxil prescriptions for pregnant women dealing with anxiety.

The drugmaker undertook that campaign while withholding information about birth-defect reports from doctors, the family contends.

The case is Kilker v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. dba GlaxoSmithKline, 2007-001813, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A.J. Langer speaks on her pregnancy and homebirth

If there was anyone more excited than A.J. Langer and Charles, Lord Courtenay about the birth of their second child, 4-week-old Jack Haydon, it was their first child, 2 ½-year-old Joscelyn Skye.

“She was very into the whole process and gave my belly millions of kisses as it grew,” A.J., 35, tells Breezy Mama. “We talked about her baby brother/sister and if it would be a boy or a girl –- her first guess was a boy with blue eyes like daddy –- so far it looks like she was right.”

“She came to midwives visits and we talked through the whole deal. She was always interested and excited about the baby. She was very involved with all the preparation and was great company throughout.”

Happily, Joscelyn’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned since baby boy went from being an abstract idea to an actual person. “She loves him and is amazingly patient with him,” the former My So-Called Life star proudly reports, though Joscelyn is “not necessarily so patient with mommy!”

Both kids’ names hold great personal significance for the couple, in a variety of ways. Joscelyn was a name from Charlie’s family tree, though it was a boy name and was spelled with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y,’ while Skye was after the Isle of Skye, a place the couple vacationed shortly after they began dating. Jack, meanwhile, is Charlie’s maternal grandfather’s name, while Haydon is “a beautiful forest near the castle in Devon — it gets completely blanketed in bluebells once a year and is breathtaking,” A.J. shares. She adds,

“We didn’t decide on the names until we had a chance to meet them. We had lists of girls’ and boys’ names and then when they were born we took our time to settle on the right ones.”

Noting that she is very much a “to each, their own” kind of mom, A.J. goes on in the interview to detail her homebirthing experiences with Joscelyn and Jack. “I would not stand on a soapbox and preach natural home birth,” she explains. “It has to be the right option… the only option, for you; It was for me.”

The pain of delivery caught A.J. off-guard with her firstborn, pain which was worsened when a midwife repeatedly checked her cervix. With Jack, she made it clear that she did not want to be checked “unless absolutely necessary.” She also spent time in her heated swimming pool before moving on to a birthing tub at her home in California, taking care to practice her yoga breathing and “focus on releasing all resistance no matter how intense it became.”

“When the pain hit the roof, I had the thought that in a matter of moments I was going to be sitting and holding my baby with a big fat smile on my face — a thought that seemed ridiculous to me at the time but I knew it was true. And there we were, moments later.”

The decision to birth her children at home was easy, for A.J. has an admitted aversion to hospitals and doctors. As a sufferer of the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, A.J. says that she had become accustomed to “being treated more like a lab rat than a patient.” Midwives were generally more trusting of her ability to pursue an unmedicated birth than doctors, A.J. said, noting that “most people with chronic pain wouldn’t think to do a home birth because they’ve been made to doubt their bodies.”

“For me, homebirth was the only option and I am very glad I went with it. My body gave birth to two healthy babies, and I witnessed it. I will never resent my body again.”

For now, the family-of-four is enjoying their newest addition and life in California. “We will probably spend some of the time in the UK at some point,” she explains. “Our plan is to have no plan.” That carefree approach is also apparent when asked whether Jack will be her last child. “Who knows,” she replies.

“Like I said, our plan is to have no plan. Tempting though…”


Rebecca Gayheart Pregnant?

Actress Rebecca Gayheart is expecting her first child with her actor husband Eric Dane, according to reports.

The stars have been in the spotlight in recent months following sensational tabloid reports about their sex life and alleged drug taking.

But Gayheart and Dane now have happier news to report. According to Star magazine, the actress is pregnant after turning to fertility specialists for help with starting a family.

A source says, "Rebecca had some pretty bad morning sickness, but now she's more than three months along and in great spirits."

Earlier this year, Dane admitted he was eager to become a dad and hinted the couple was seeking specialist advice to increase the odds of having a baby.

He told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, "We're currently working on that. It's funny because you get the doctors involved and they call you and it's like, 'In eight days I'll have to put in some work. I will be very busy and I probably shouldn't schedule anything else.'"

Gayheart, 38, and Dane, 36, wed in 2004.

The couple was recently caught up in a saucy video scandal, when footage of them sharing a bath and a bed with a former beauty queen leaked online.


Make your Baby's Name Unique - Here's How

If you are mulling over a list of popular or traditional names with no luck, creating a unique baby name might be your answer.

One technique you can use to come up with a meaningful name is to use ethnic or foreign variations of a popular name by adding a diminutive ending (-ina, -ette, -ita) or a prefix before the name (Da-, La-, Ta-). Foreign baby names can be exotic, and also a great way to honor your heritage and culture. Some cultural names can include, but are not limited to:

Girl Names:

  • Frieda: a German name dating back to the 1900s.
  • Zahara: an Arab name, meaning "flower."
  • Yoko: a Japanese name, meaning "positive child."
  • Riley: an Irish surname now popularized as a first name.
  • Alicia: a Spanish name.

Boy Names:

  • Johann: a German name dating back to the 1600s.
  • Aamir: an Arab name, meaning "prince."
  • Tadashi: a Japanese name that means "correct and righteous."
  • Faelan: an Irish name that means "young wolf." Alternative spellings also include Faylen or Falehn.
  • Xavier: a Spanish name.

If none of these tips have you excited, turn to the world around you for inspiration. Some of the following themes might help:

  • Classical music names; perhaps a masterpiece is what you're looking for.
  • Gods and Goddesses; Greek and Roman mythology provide a myriad of historical and meaningful names such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
  • Location/Landmarks: maybe a certain location holds a special meaning and memory for you.
  • Nature: if your baby is born during a specific season, you might like names such as Autumn or Summer.

Keep in mind that choosing a unique name, especially if it's very unusual, might attract unwanted attention and teasing from your baby's peers. Make sure your special name is well thought out.


Health Insurers Consider A Caesarean-Section Pregnancy A Pre-Existing Condition

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reported on the fact that in seven states plus the District of Columbia, “getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.” The insurance industry figures that if “you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you’re more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure,” but what it really does is punish these victims for something that wasn’t their fault.

But that isn’t the only policy that health insurers have that primarily discriminate against women. First of all, most individual health insurance markets don’t cover maternity care. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 14 states have a requirement for such coverage, and the number of plans without maternity coverage continues to rise dramatically. Why? Anthem Blue Cross — which has been actively fighting health care reform — considers pregnancy optional and therefore not necessary to insure:

“The point of insurance is to insure against catastrophic care costs. That’s what you’re trying to aggregate and pool for such things as heart attacks and cancer,” said an Anthem Blue Cross spokesman. “Having a child is a matter of choice. Dealing with an adult onset illness, such as diabetes, heart disease breast or prostate cancer, is not a matter of choice.”

Even Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spoke an unintentional truth when he said of his parents: “When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already four-and-a-half-months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a pre-existing condition.”

When a woman isn’t currently pregnant, she often still cannot get coverage. Many insurers consider a Caesarean-section pregnancy a pre-existing condition and refuse to cover women who have had the procedure. From a 2008 New York Times story about a Colorado woman who had Golden Rule Insurance:

She was turned down because she had given birth by Caesarean section. Having the operation once increases the odds that it will be performed again, and if she became pregnant and needed another Caesarean, Golden Rule did not want to pay for it. A letter from the company explained that if she had been sterilized after the Caesarean, or if she were over 40 and had given birth two or more years before applying, she might have qualified.

The number of C-sections performed in the United States has been “growing steadily,” with approximately 30 percent of women having the procedure. Other insurance companies that don’t necessarily reject women with C-sections often do charge them higher premiums or “factor in chronic or recurring problems that might have led to the Caesarean.” What’s even worse is that once you’re denied by one company, it’s harder to get coverage somewhere else because you’ve been red-flagged.


New Website Makes Family Dinner Easier

Search through thousands of recipes based on the ingredients you typically have in your kitchen.'s recipe database comes from multiple sources including cookbooks such as Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and 1000 Gluten Free Recipes, among others. In addition, the site features a blog from Chef Ariane Duarte, a restaurant owner, working mom, and former chef'testant on the award-winning Bravo television show Top Chef. Ariane's blog features her own easy and delicious dinner recipes as well as tips on how to make nightly family dinners a success. includes the following features:

  • The Recipe Generator allows users to type in the ingredients they want to use and select the cuisine that suits their family's taste and mood. Results will show many recipes for easy-to-make entrees and side dishes.
  • The Meal Planner is an easy-to-use application. Users can select recipes found by the recipe generator and simply drag and drop them into a weekly calendar. If they need some inspiration, they can hit the "I'm Feeling Hungry" button and get an entire week's worth of recipes with just one click.
  • The Shopping List makes trips to the grocery store a breeze by combining all of the ingredients from the recipes in your weekly meal plan and organizing them in a simple printable format. The Shopping List finds all the times a particular ingredient appears in the weekly meal plan, totaling up the amount needed for the week, and even organize ingredients by their type and aisle in the grocery store.
  • My Stuff allows users to save all of their family's favorite recipes in one personalized file for quick and easy access anytime. Users can also save a week's meal plan and shopping list here for future use.
Check it out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

High blood pressure in pregnancy a heart risk

Women who had an increase in blood pressure during pregnancy are likely to develop heart disease at an earlier age than women who maintained normal blood pressure while they were pregnant, Chilean researchers report.

Dr. Gloria Valdes of Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Santiago and colleagues studied 217 women with an average age of about 61 years, who underwent a coronary artery examination about 30 years after their last pregnancy.

As reported in the medical journal Hypertension, 146 women had had normal blood pressure during their pregnancies while 71 women had hypertension during at least one pregnancy.

About half of all the participants were found to have significant coronary artery disease. Valdes told Reuters Health that women with hypertensive pregnancies developed significant narrowing in their coronary arteries about three years sooner than women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy.

Furthermore, during 10 years of follow-up, there was a significantly greater increase in the number of clogged arteries in the hypertensive group (28 percent) than in the normal blood pressure group (22 percent).

"Gestational hypertension represents a positive stress test for future cardiovascular risk, which should prompt early management of cardiovascular risks," Valdes commented.

She added, "Obstetricians need to identify women with a family history of premature cardiovascular disease, as this doubles the risk of a hypertensive pregnancy."


Violence Before Pregnancy Can Harm Developing Baby

A new study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital finds that women who were victims of violence when they were children or teenagers may give birth to infants with compromised immune systems.

Researchers already knew that when pregnant women are stressed, that stress can negatively affect their developing babies. This latest research shows that trauma experienced before pregnancy can also harm a baby. That’s because those children are sometimes born with high levels of an antibody that can make them more prone to allergic reactions.

The Brigham’s Rosalind Wright, the study’s senior author, said that can affect a child’s physical health later in life.

“We know that stress in general — and that includes things like physical and sexual violence during the pregnancy — has an effect on the baby’s immune system, putting them at higher risk to go on to develop chronic, costly pediatric disorders like allergies and asthma,” said Dr. Wright, an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

Wright plans to follow the health of the children born to the women in her study to find out whether they do end up developing those disorders.

The study appears online in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.


Leelee Sobieski Expecting First Child

Emmy-nominated actress Leelee Sobieski and her fashion designer fiancé Adam Kimmel are poised for first-time parenthood, a rep for the Joan of Arc star has confirmed.

The “thrilled” couple — who revealed their engagement in June — expect the baby in December.

Leelee, 27, has modeled for Adam’s Fall/Winter 2009 look book, and most recently appeared in this summer’s Public Enemies alongside Johnny Depp; She can next be seen in The Mad Cow opposite Jeffrey Tambor.


7 Strategies for a Successful Maternity Leave

Taking time off after having a baby can be expensive. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, most parents take less than that to avoid giving up their salaries for an extended period. Only 8 percent of companies offer employees paid leave, and women without paid leave take an average of just 6.6 weeks of maternity leave. (Those with paid leave take an average of 10.5 weeks off.)

But even amid a recession, Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, authors of Happy at Work, Happy at Home: The Girl's Guide to Being a Working Mom, say it's possible to make a relatively smooth transition into a routine that includes both parenthood and a career.

Research your leave options. Even before becoming pregnant, ask other parents at your company about the maternity leave options available, and take note of whether people are able to work from home or work flexible hours. "Really be honest about how family-friendly your company is. You can see how other women experience their maternity leave and get back on. If the majority of them left, then that says something," says Friedman.

Once you become pregnant and are ready to tell people, which is usually around the three-month mark, Friedman recommends speaking with the human resources department about leave benefits so you can start preparing. Some companies allow employees to use their sick days for maternity leave or offer short-term-disability options, while others stick with the standard three months of unpaid leave. The same advice goes for fathers. Some companies offer at least a couple of weeks of paid paternity leave.

Delegate tasks while you're away. Some workers might fear that delegating work to other employees while they're away will make them appear easily replaceable. But Friedman says it's good for everyone if you make your time away as easy on your boss as possible by making sure your responsibilities will be covered. "Otherwise, you won't be fully present on maternity leave, and you need to be," she says. Plus, she adds, in this economy, "if you were replaceable, you already would have been replaced."

Plan to be out of the loop completely for at least a few weeks. While it might be tempting to keep your BlackBerry nearby and respond to work-related E-mails shortly after giving birth, Friedman recommends against it. "In the first couple weeks, as you're adjusting to a lack of sleep, you're not really in your best frame of mind for being professionally attuned," she says. That's why it's important to plan for at least two to three weeks of a "blackout" period.

Then stay in touch. Checking in at least once a week or once every two weeks can make it easier to return to work once maternity leave is over. Friedman recommends keeping track of key projects and clients, at least occasionally. "Get as many updates as you can, so people know you're coming back and you're up to speed," she says.

Find good child care. While you're on maternity leave, it's wise to get your child-care situation sorted out. It can take six months of researching daycare facilities and interviewing nannies to find the right one, so Friedman recommends starting early. Working moms (and dads) who aren't 100 percent comfortable with their child-care arrangements have a hard time focusing when they're back at work.

Once you're back at work, show that you're still the same person. Working moms confront a lot of stereotypes, including the notion that they'd rather be at home with their children or they aren't as on top of things as they used to be. "Meet with your boss, and make it clear you want to be there," suggests Friedman. "Everyone is going to be looking at you really closely, consciously or unconsciously, to see if you're the same person you were before you left to have a baby," she says. That means you don't want to be the person who shows off dozens of baby photos and talks about child care and your baby too frequently.

Help others. "If somebody else gets pregnant, help them through the process," says Friedman. Supporting other women makes for a more family-friendly work environment.


Jenna Elfman Expecting Baby No. 2!

Just weeks after stating she "definitely" wants more children, Jenna Elfman revealed that she is expecting her second child with husband Bodhi Elfman on Wednesday morning while appearing on CBS' The Early Show.

The 37-year-old Accidentally on Purpose actress shared how life imitates art:

I have a baby in my tummy — but a real one, not just for my TV show,” she shared. “My character’s pregnant the whole first season, so I said, ‘It’s a good time to have another baby, because we won’t have to hide it.’”

On the show, Jenna plays a 30-something movie critic who has a one-night stand with a 20-something slacker and winds up pregnant. The Dharma & Greg star joked that eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot her own baby bump. “By episode three if you look closely once it airs, you’ll see … ‘Oh is she a little bloated? Did she have a big dinner?’”

Jenna and Bodhi, who have been married for 14 years, are already parents to 2-year-old son Story Elias.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Abortions May Pose a Risk to Future Babies

Women who have an abortion may run an increased risk of subsequently giving birth to premature or low-weight babies, according to a study that will further fuel the abortion debate.

The review of a large amount of research, carried out in Canada, is likely to be seized on by the anti-abortion lobby as evidence that termination is damaging to future babies. However, the authors say there could be a number of reasons for their findings, of which the most likely is physical damage to the cervix caused by older methods of abortion.

The study found that women who had an abortion in the first or second trimester had a 35% increased risk of a low birth weight baby and a 36% raised risk of a pre-term baby in later pregnancies.

Dr Prakesh Shah, author of the review, published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said there was a need for better methods of terminating pregnancy and women needed better information. "When a woman comes for induced termination of pregnancy, she should be counselled about that risk. At least she will be able to make an informed choice," he said.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it wished to "underline the importance of support for women's choices, and the need for sensitivity in counselling women about termination of pregnancy in line with current research evidence. Abortion remains an essential part of women's healthcare services."

The Toronto group has been looking into all the reasons why babies are born premature and underweight. The researchers pulled together evidence from 37 studies around the world, carried out between 1965 and 2001, to find out whether previous abortion might be one of the factors.

They discovered that in women who had undergone more than one abortion, there was a 72% increased frisk for low birth weight and 93% for prematurity. There was no increased risk that the baby would be small for gestational age.

Shah said the process of termination could cause some damage to the cervix, which has to be dilated, or to the womb. "Newer methods are probably safer. However, we could not find any data on which to base that assumption because they have not been studied," he said. In particular, drug-induced abortion, or using a drug to soften and ripen the cervix before mechanical dilation, may prevent damage.

Many women with a history of abortion tend to be unmarried, young and from socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the paper notes, but the researchers believe they have allowed for this in their calculations.


Dioxins In Food Chain May Cause Breastfeeding Ills

An explanation for the trouble some women experience while breastfeeding or if they don’t produce enough milk may be caused by the exposure to dioxins.

Corresponding author B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC, believes that these findings, although only demonstrated in mice at this point, begin to address an area of health that impacts millions of women.

According to her the cause of this problem mother experience worldwide “is unclear, though it has been suggested that environmental contaminants might play a role. We showed definitively that a known and abundant pollutant has an adverse effect on the way mammary glands develop during pregnancy.”

Dioxins are generated mostly by the incineration of certain plastics, substance people encounter in their diet. When air emissions settle on farm fields and where livestock graze, dioxins get into the food supply. After ingurgitation, the natural elimination takes place very slowly.

The novel discovery that dioxin impairs the normal development of mammary glands during pregnancy, was made by Lawrence’s laboratory in 2004. following that discovery, researchers have linked dioxin to a profound effect on breast tissue, by causing mammary cells to stop their natural cycle of proliferation as early as six days into pregnancy and lasting through mid-pregnancy.

Another significant aspect in the study is the timing of dioxin: if exposure occurs very early in pregnancy, lab experiments showed that sometimes the mammary glands can partially recover from the cellular injury, for example.

Lawrence stated that “Our goal is not to find a safe window of exposure for humans, but to better understand how dioxins affect our health”. Therefore, much of the research Lawrence team made is based on AhR, aryl hydrocarbon receptor, a transcription factor. When pollutants enter the body they bind to AhR, which then turns on certain genes responsible for detoxification. Dioxin impairs the ability to fight off infection, although it activates AhR.

What controls the differentiation process is going to be the next subject for a further research. What remains to be understood is whether the toxic harm is occurring directly in the breast, or if it occurs throughout the entire body but has a unique manifestation in the fatty mammary tissue.

The National Institutes of Health, the URMC Environmental Health Sciences Center and the Art BeCAUSE Foundation of Boston supported the research.


What to Look for in a Nursing Bra

Shopping for a nursing bra should be as thrilling as a trip to Victoria's Secret! The "uniboob" contraptions of the past have been replaced by comfortable, cute and easy-to-use undergarments that are as fashionable as they are functional making the task of choosing a bra easier than ever. While the experts recommend getting fitted in person, there are a few simple steps that can be taken at home if you choose to place your orders online. Before packing your hospital bag, check out these tips.

  • Don't wait until the last minute. Get fitted for a nursing bra approximately two weeks before your due date. This alleviates the need to send a clueless relative to the store to guess what size and style bra you need.
  • Support is key. Look for bras with enough support to keep your girls from bouncing around too much.
  • Avoid the bulge. Breasts should not bulge out of the top or sides of the bra, even at their largest, most engorged state.
  • Make room for the pad. The bra should have enough room to hold your breast and a nursing pad comfortably.
  • Go up a size. Purchase a bra one cup size larger than your pre-delivery measurements say. This will leave the proper amount of space for your breast once your milk comes in.
  • There's a three bra minimum. Having three nursing bras in your possession will allow for one to be in the wash, one to be on you and one to be ready to go.
  • Buy good nursing bras. There is a reason some bras cost more than others – they last and wear longer, meaning less stretch, fewer clasp breaks and more elasticity.
  • Sleep on it. Sleep bras keep breast pads in place and help alleviate some pressure from the back during the overnight hours.

Baby Formula Study a Marketing Cover, Researchers Say

A new study shows benefits in adding the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA to infant formula, but breast-feeding experts say they will still advocate a more natural source of DHA: breast milk.

The study, appearing in the journal Child Development, indicates that infants receiving formula supplemented with DHA performed better on a cognitive test than infants who were given formula without it. DHA occurs naturally in breast milk.

But while doctors say the evidence may support formula containing a DHA supplement over formula without one, they are concerned that the study may be the first test toward marketing a replacement for breast milk. The formula used in the study was provided to the researchers by a manufacturing company for free.

One pediatrician notes that in her own practice, some mothers are convinced that formula with DHA can be superior to breast milk.

"The marketing has actually dissuaded mothers from choosing exclusive breast-feeding, which is preferred from all the outcomes that we understand," said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician with Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J.

"There are many other factors in human milk that also support neurocognitive development and visual acuity," said Feldman-Winter.

And she was not alone in her skepticism for the apparent reasons behind the study.

"It is clear that the food industry fascination with nutraceuticals (strategically fortified food products) is now spreading into infant formula," said Barbara Moore, president and CEO of Shape Up America!, in an e-mail to "This is a disturbing new development. We have parents thinking that sticking their tiny infants in front of a Baby Einstein video will improve their child's mental development when the data suggest that parent-child interactions (and plenty of them) are the most critical factor for such development. Moore said in the e-mail. "Now parents will be encouraged to forego breast-feeding -- which is optimal for both mothers and babies -- in favor of a hyped up infant formula."

Breast milk has other benefits not related to mental development, Moore said. "Breast-feeding confers protection against infection, including viral infections, and the CDC promotes breast-feeding to confer maximal protection against swine flu and other infections."

James Drover, the study's lead author, did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment.

Infants who display superior performance on the means-end problem solving task tend to have superior IQ and vocabulary later in childhood, it's possible that the beneficial effects of DHA extend well beyond infancy.

Dr. Miriam Labbok, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, expressed some skepticism with the findings.

"It might be reasonable from these industry-funded studies to consider that this would be a good additive to formula if you are forced to stop breast-feeding," she said in an e-mail. "However, 1) none of these studies compare to continued breast-feeding, 2) you could also get these [nutrients] from other sources if you stop breast-feeding, and 3) there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other components in human milk that cannot be replaced."


Swine Flu Pregnancy Danger Tied to Cell Infection-Fighter

Pregnant women may be more vulnerable to swine flu because an infection-fighting blood cell fails to do its job within this group, Australian doctors said.

The finding emerged after doctors in Melbourne analyzed blood tests to determine why pregnant women made up a majority of their critically ill H1N1 patients. The results, reported at a medical meeting in San Francisco, showed six out of seven of the women lacked a cell known as immunoglobulin G subclass 2, or IgG2. The antibody deficiency was also noted in seriously ill non-pregnant patients.

Doctors are now looking for the defect in others with the virus to confirm the association and determine whether it can help identify patients at risk of pneumonia and other complications. The hospitalization rate for pregnant H1N1 patients is more than four times that of the general population, a study last month in the medical journal Lancet found.

“This is the first time IgG2 subclass deficiency has been associated with influenza,” Claire Gordon, an infectious diseases doctor at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital and the study’s lead author, told the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Gordon said she and her colleagues suspect the deficiency is linked with an inability to mount a rapid response to the flu infection, leading to severe disease. IgG2 antibodies help eradicate bacteria, and studies in mice have shown them to fight influenza and viral infections in the lungs, she said.

The investigation was prompted by a 28-year-old pregnant H1N1 patient who developed such severe breathing difficulties that she required her blood to be pumped through an artificial lung, a life-supporting procedure known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, Gordon said. Doctors questioned whether the patient’s complications were caused by an underlying immune disorder.

“Somewhat unexpectedly, we identified the IgG subclass deficiency,” Gordon said.

Blood tests on 16 healthy pregnant women used in the study for comparison found more than half were “mildly deficient” in an immunoglobulin G subclass, she said. The lowest IgG2 levels were recorded in the severely ill pregnant swine flu patients.

“The fact that pregnancy appears to be associated with mild IgG2 deficiency may explain their increased risk,” the authors said. “But severe cases are significantly more deficient.”

More research is needed to assess whether severely ill patients with the deficiency would benefit from immunoglobulin treatment, Gordon said.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Cocoa Butter or Vitamin E for Stretch Marks?

Cocoa butter has many uses, but one of the most common is combating the linear marks that result from rapid growth, especially in pregnancy, and weight gain.

The problem afflicts most pregnant women, not to mention many body builders, teenagers going through puberty and people who are overweight. Cocoa butter is a popular solution, but studies have found that it produces rather unimpressive results.

The largest study on the subject was published in 2008 by a team of dermatologists and obstetricians. It followed 175 women in their first pregnancies, some randomly assigned to apply a cocoa butter lotion each day and others assigned to use a placebo. Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew who was using which treatment. After many months, the researchers found no difference in the development or severity of marks, known medically as striae, over the abdomen, breasts or thighs.

For those looking for an alternative, scientists have found that vitamin E creams are more effective. In a similarly double-blinded study of 100 pregnant women in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2000, for example, researchers found that those who were assigned to use a cream containing alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, developed fewer marks than those given a placebo.

Surgical and radiofrequency treatments are available, too, but they carry a higher price.


Smoking pregnant increases baby's asthma risk: study

Smoking during pregancy increases the risk of a baby developing asthma up to sixfold, said a Swedish study published at the European Respiratory Society's annual congress on Monday.

The study by Professeur Anders Bjerg of the Sunderby central hospital in Norrbotten and his specialists showed that smoking leads to babies being born underweight, a fact that has an impact on the development of asthma.

The Swedish doctors studied asthma in about 3,400 children between 1996 and 2008.

The study found that babies of smoking mothers had an average weight of 211 grammes (7.44 ounces) less than those of mothers who do not smoke.

Nearly a quarter (24.3 percent) of smoking mothers' babies weighed less than 2.5 kilogrammes at birth against 4.1 percent for those of non-smoking women.

In underweight children of women who smoked throughout their pregnancy the asthma risk was at 23.5 percent, against 7.7 percent in children of non-smoking mothers who were born with an average weight.


Experts Object to Homebirth Despite Recent Canadian Study

Although two new studies from Canada and the Netherlands found that home births were as safe as hospital births among low-risk women, Erin Tracy of Massachusetts General Hospital argues that the findings can't be extrapolated to the USA.

In Canada and the Netherlands, midwives who attend home births must have at least a bachelor's degree, which is not the case for all U.S. midwives, says Tracy, a spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which opposes home births.

In the USA, certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives, both of whom are represented by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, will need master's degrees in midwifery to take the test for accreditation beginning in 2011. According to executive director Lorrie Kaplan, her college has accredited 11,500 certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives.

But a third group, certified professional midwives — who only attend home births — has no minimum formal education requirements.

According to the North American Registry of Midwives, which accredits certified professional midwives, they have varied educational backgrounds, ranging from self-study to college- and university-based midwifery programs. Certified professional midwives are allowed to practice in all but 10 states and the District of Columbia, according to the registry.


Citing safety concerns, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has campaigned against home births, distributing bumper stickers that say "Home deliveries are for pizza."

And the American Medical Association's House of Delegates last year passed a resolution stating that "the safest setting for labor, delivery, and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex."

Researchers in Canada and the Netherlands published two large studies concluding that among low-risk women, planned home births attended by qualified midwives appear to be as safe as hospital births. The new studies have fueled the debate but have not convinced ACOG.

For one, says Erin Tracy, ACOG's delegate to the AMA, the studies weren't large enough. Problems are infrequent in childbirth, no matter where it takes place, so only "really large numbers" could reveal whether the home truly is as safe as the hospital, says Tracy, an OB/GYN at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The majority of patients ... might get away with it," she says, but low-risk pregnancies can become high-risk in minutes: A baby's shoulder might get stuck in the birth canal, or heavy bleeding could necessitate a blood transfusion for the mother.

Patricia Jannsen, the University of British Columbia researcher who is the lead author of the new Canadian study, notes that it included all 862 planned home births attended by midwives in her province from Jan. 1, 1998, through Dec. 31, 1999. Canada was the last developed country to regulate midwives, she says, and 1998 was the first year British Columbia women could opt for a home birth with a regulated midwife.


Sportswomen benefit from pregnancy

Kim Clijsters, the Belgian tennis player, became the latest elite sportswoman to add credence to the theory that, far from signaling the end of a woman’s athletic career, pregnancy can enhance her performance. Clijsters took a two-year break from tennis to give birth to her daughter but, at the US Open last week, she defied expectation to trounce Venus Williams, the No 3 seed.

She is certainly not the first high-profile athlete to discover that becoming a mother somehow spurs an already high-achieving body on to even greater things. Among those to have experienced the “‘motherhood effect” are the distance runners Paula Radcliffe and Liz McColgan and Catriona Matthew, the Scottish golfer who won this year’s women’s British Open ten weeks after giving birth. All claim that the demands of pregnancy and childbirth made them stronger of body and more willful of mind, suggesting that in some way the rigors of the process heightened their athletic powers. But beyond the anecdotal, is there any evidence that such a boost takes place?

Medical experts are in little doubt that hormonal and other changes in pregnancy impact on physical performance during the pregnancy itself. In the first three months it is known that a woman’s body produces a natural surplus of red blood cells, the type that are rich in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, to support the growing fetus. James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University, has studied athletes during and after pregnancy at his Human Energy Research laboratory and found there is a 60 per cent increase in blood volume and that this could improve the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles by up to 30 per cent.

“This could improve aerobic capacity, enabling a woman to run, cycle or swim at a certain pace for longer,” says Greg Whyte, professor of applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University. But there are other adaptations in the first trimester that could also make a difference: “A surge in hormones — predominantly progesterone and estrogen, but also the male hormones including testosterone — could increase muscle strength,” Whyte says. “Increases in other hormones like relaxin, which loosens the hip joints to prepare a woman for birth, could also improve joint mobility to a beneficial degree.”

There are rumors that in the 1970s and 1980s, such physiological improvements during pregnancy led to attempts by East German athletes to enhance their performance by getting pregnant and then having an abortion. In what has been dubbed the “abortion doping scandal”, it is alleged that female athletes fell pregnant for three months in order to benefit from the increased oxygen supplies. The issue was raised by the former chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission at the first anti-doping conference in 1988 although evidence that it occurred has never been substantiated.

Liz McColgan, now a mother of five, ran five miles the day before giving birth to her first child in 1990: “I remember I felt a little heavy that day and didn’t feel right.” She also claims that her first training runs after giving birth left her feeling elated. “You feel really good, comfy and strong because you have got rid of all that weight,” she says. “I felt fantastic after carrying the baby.” After six and a half weeks, McColgan took part in a 5km road race in America and, after 11 weeks, she won a bronze medal in the World Cross Country Championships. “Taking time away from racing while you are expecting also helps,” she says. “It rekindles your love for the sport so that you come back with more passion for it and refreshed.”

But Dr David James, a researcher in exercise physiology at the University of Gloucester’s faculty of sport, says: “Neither researchers nor pregnant women are enthusiastic about participating in studies in which they could possibly endanger babies,” he says. “Consequently, there are few confirmed findings on the subject.”

But results of studies that have been published suggest childbirth is beneficial to sportswomen. A 1991 analysis of recreational runners revealed that the efficiency with which the body uses and processes oxygen increased by 7 per cent in the eight months after childbirth. And researchers reporting in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports in 1997 revealed that 11 per cent of elite endurance performers, such as cross-country skiers and runners, performed significantly better after having a baby while 61 per cent returned to compete at the same level at which they had performed before pregnancy.

Indeed, while the advice to pregnant women 30 years ago was to do no more than a gentle stroll and cover a maximum of a mile a day, researchers have now shown that exercise throughout pregnancy benefits mother and child. German researchers reported that running while pregnant can enhance development of the foetus and other studies have shown that babies born to active women tend to be more alert and are less inclined to be overweight toddlers.

But perhaps the greatest benefits to athletic mothers are the psychological changes that come from experiencing labor itself. Ingrid Kristiansen, the former marathon runner from Norway, confirms the hunch of many sports scientists in her belief that childbirth aided her sporting success by raising her pain threshold.

Whyte says: “Women re-evaluate where they can anchor pain and many psychologists believe that woman’s pain threshold is effectively reset so that when she resumes or takes up training again, nothing ever seems as uncomfortable.”