Friday, October 09, 2009

Duggar family welcomes first grandchild, Mackynzie Renee Duggar

The supersize Duggar clan just got a tiny bit bigger.

The reality TV family has welcomed its first grandchild, Mackynzie Renee Duggar, People.com reports. Her 17 aunts and uncles and paternal grandparents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, are doubtless thrilled about the latest branch on the family tree.

Josh Duggar - the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle's brood of 18 - and his wife, Anna, had Mackynzie at home with a midwife and a doula in attendance.

As the big brother to 17 siblings, Josh is no stranger to babies, and he was a very involved and attentive dad from the start. He was the one who told his wife they were expecting, after she was too nervous to look at the pregnancy test, according to People.

He also read and sang to his daughter while she was still in the womb, and made sure his wife got all the attention she deserved.

"I ask Anna what she needs," Josh told People in July. "I talk to the baby and we involve her in our conversations. When Anna and I are talking to each other, we'll say, 'So, how do you like that, Mackynzie?' "

The new dad was also front and center for their baby's arrival. "Josh was excited to participate in the birth as well," a family friend told the magazine. "They are both so happy."

The baby's name is a combination of Josh's cousin's name, Mackynzie, and Anna's middle name, Renee. They haven't decided whether they'll give all their children names that begin with "M," which would be in keeping with a family tradition; Josh's parents famously gave all of their 18 kids "J" names.

Mackynzie Renee Duggar will, however, be quickly introduced to another Duggar family ritual. Her birth will be shown to millions of TV viewers on TLC's "18 Kids and Counting" on Oct. 13, in a special entitled "First Grandduggar."

And if having 17 aunts and uncles to spoil little Mackynzie with attention is not enough, there's another new addition to the family on the way. Grandparents Jim Bob and Michelle are expecting their 19th child this spring.

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Cesarean Deliveries for First Time Moms Highest Among African Americans

A study released by Kaiser Permanente indicates that while the rate of cesarean-section (CS) deliveries for first-time moms has continued to increase over the last ten years, there is a disproportionately higher rate of primary c-sections among African-American women. The study, "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Trends in Primary Cesarean Delivery based on Indications," published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed a significant increase in the rates of primary CS in all race/ethnicity groups, but compared to Caucasian women, African-American women had significantly higher rates of primary CS while the increase in rates among Hispanic women was smaller.

"It`s also disconcerting to see that there is a wide variation in indication for primary CS by race/ethnicity that cannot be explained by education, smoking during pregnancy, when prenatal care began or maternal age at delivery," notes lead author, Darios Getahun, MD, MPH, researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, CA.

"This study underscores the importance of educating expectant women about the potential impact of CS on the outcome of future pregnancies," according to Getahun.

The ten-year surge in the rate of primary cesarean sections led researchers to hypothesize that given the difference in the prevalence of risk factors for CS by race/ethnicity such as breech presentation, shoulder dystocia, fetal distress, and other medical and obstetrical conditions, as well as the number of elective CS, the race or ethnicity of the first time mother might have a bearing on the CS outcome.

This appears to be the first published study to focus on ethnic disparities on primary CS based on indication and its growing trends. Getahun plans to continue this study.

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A high fat diet during pregnancy can lead to severe liver disease in offspring

In a study, published in the journal Hepatology today, researchers at the University of Southampton found that a high fat diet during a woman’s pregnancy makes her offspring more likely to develop a severe form of fatty liver disease when they reach adulthood. The findings are another piece in the jigsaw for scientists who believe diets containing too high levels of saturated fat may have an adverse effect on our health.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition associated with obesity and caused by the build up of fat in the liver. This liver condition progresses in some people and it is important to understand the factors that contribute to disease progression. Until recently, NAFLD was considered rare and relatively harmless but now it is one of the most common forms of liver disease that may progress to cirrhosis, a serious life threatening chronic liver disease.

Professor Christopher Byrne with colleagues Dr Felino Cagampang and Dr Kim Bruce, of the University’s School of Medicine and researchers at King’s College London, conducted the study. Prof Byrne explained: “This research shows that too much saturated fat in a mother’s diet can affect the developing liver of a fetus, making it more susceptible to developing fatty liver disease later in life. An unhealthy saturated fat-enriched diet in the child and young adult compounds the problem further causing a severe form of the fatty liver disease later in adult life.”

The on-going study represents another piece of pioneering research by the University’s School of Medicine, which has a worldwide reputation studying the relationship between mother’s diet in pregnancy and health problems in their offspring.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Red and Orange Produce Tied to Lower Risk of Preterm Birth

Pregnant women who eat plenty of red- and orange-hued fruits and vegetables may have lower odds of giving birth prematurely, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among more than 5,300 women who gave birth at one of four Canadian hospitals, those with higher blood levels of certain carotenoids were less likely to deliver preterm.

Carotenoids are pigments that give yellow, orange and red hues to a variety of fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, watermelon, oranges and orange juice. They also act as antioxidants -- meaning they help protect body cells from damage that can lead to disease.

In the study, the one-half of mothers-to-be with the highest blood levels of certain carotenoids were 30 percent to 50 percent less likely to deliver prematurely than women with lower levels.

The protective nutrients included alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-cryptoxanthin.

The findings, reported in the journal Epidemiology, do not prove cause-and-effect. There may be other things about women with high carotenoid levels that explain the association with lower preterm-birth risk, noted lead researcher Dr. Michael S. Kramer of McGill University and Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada.

However, he told Reuters Health in an email, the findings do fit in with the recommendation to eat a well-balanced diet during pregnancy.

The findings are based on blood samples from 207 women who gave birth preterm; each woman was compared with two others who delivered at term, at the same hospital.

Higher carotenoid levels remained linked to a lower risk of preterm delivery even after the researchers accounted for several factors that could help explain the connection -- such as the mother's smoking habits, weight, education and income.

If carotenoids do help prevent premature delivery, the reasons are not clear, according to Kramer. He speculated that it could be related to protection from any ill effects of environmental toxins, like air pollution, or exposure to bacteria or other infectious agents.

In contrast to the case with carotenoids, Kramer's team found that high blood levels of another antioxidant -- vitamin E -- were linked to an increased risk of preterm birth.

Similarly, women with the highest blood levels of certain dietary fats, including unsaturated fats, showed a somewhat higher risk of preterm birth. Omega-3 fats, found largely in fish, were unrelated to preterm delivery.

The reasons for those connections are also unclear, and the findings could have been due to chance, the researchers note. Kramer said the results are too preliminary to make any recommendations.

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Rite Aid alters flu-shot policy for pregnant women

The nation's third-largest drugstore chain is no longer making pregnant women show a prescription to get a flu shot.

Cheryl Slavinsky, a spokeswoman for Rite Aid, says the policy change is for both seasonal flu and swine flu shots.

Pregnant women have low vaccination rates, partly because many obstetricians don't vaccinate and some pharmacists have been wary of giving them shots. Public health officials are trying to change that. Pregnant women are on the priority list for regular winter flu and swine flu shots.

Rite Aid announced the change in policy Wednesday. Spokesmen for Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp. say their drugstores don't treat pregnant women seeking a flu shot any differently than the general public.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

It's National Midwifery Week!

Each year during National Midwifery Week, midwives across the US raise awareness of the midwifery profession and the services they provide to the women they serve. From pizza parties to poetry readings, the celebrations are as diverse as the profession of midwifery.

The University of Indianapolis School of Nursing is marking the observance of National Midwifery Week by joining in the annual Blankets for Babies campaign, collecting new and gently used baby, toddler and maternity items for distribution by local organizations that support babies and mothers.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives and its 7,000-plus members are observing National Midwifery Week from Oct. 4 to 11 to point out the positive role these care providers can play in reducing healthcare costs and lowering the rate of Cesarean section, among other benefits. In addition to caring for women during pregnancy, nurse-midwives work with physicians to offer a full range of services to women from adolescence through menopause and help them make informed choices about their health care.

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Mary Cheney Pregnant Again

Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is pregnant with her second child, due in mid- to late-November. Cheney confirmed her pregnancy to the Web site True/Slant, which first reported it.

Cheney and her longtime female partner, Heather Poe, will raise the baby along with her 2-year-old son, Samuel David Cheney. She has never disclosed the paternity of either of her children.

After the baby is born, Mary Cheney will take maternity leave from the communications firm she's worked for, and then start a new consulting firm with her sister, Liz Cheney.

Though Dick Cheney is well known as a social conservative, he spoke in favor of gay marriage in June at the National Press Club:

"As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. . . . The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that . . . historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled."

After Mary Cheney's first child was born in March 2007, conservative James Dobson of Focus on the Family wrote a critical commentary in Time magazine titled "Two Mommies Is One Too Many."

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This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Padma Lakshmi looks beautiful in her cute black dress, Christina Milian bumps it up in a satiny dress, Marcy Rylan goes shopping in tie-dye, Heidi Klum wraps it up in all black, Rebecca Gayheart accentuated her bump in stripes, and Jenna Elfman wears a really neat black and white dress on the Bonnie Hunt show.

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Odd Places to Put Ultrasound Pictures

There are some odd places where you can apply your ultrasound pictures. You could put one on your hat, or on a throw pillow, put it on a mouse pad or a button. Put one on your tie or even on your kid's shoe.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Warning on licorice in pregnancy

Pregnant women who eat large amounts of licorice could negatively affect their child's intelligence and behavior, according to research.

Experts from Edinburgh and Helsinki universities studied eight-year-olds born in Finland, where consumption of licorice among young women is common.

The children of women who ate a lot of licorice when pregnant did not perform as well as other youngsters in tests.

Researchers said a component in licorice may impair the placenta.

They said the component - glycyrrhizin - may allow stress hormones to cross from the mother to the baby.

High levels of such hormones, known as glucocorticoids, are thought to affect fetal brain development and have been linked to behavioral disorders in children in previous studies.

Of the children who took part in the Finnish study, 64 were exposed to high levels of glycyrrhizin in licorice, 46 to moderate levels and 211 to low levels.

They were tested on a range of cognitive functions including vocabulary, memory and spatial awareness.

Behavior was assessed using an in-depth questionnaire completed by the mother.

The results suggested that women who ate more than 500mg of glycyrrhizin per week - found in the equivalent of 100g of pure licorice - were more likely to have children with lower intelligence levels and more behavioral problems.

The eight-year-olds were more likely to have poor attention spans and show disruptive behavior such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the researchers said.

The research comes after a study which suggested that licorice consumption was also linked to shorter pregnancies.

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BPA During Pregnancy Linked to Female Aggression

A new study adds to the growing concern that prenatal exposure to the chemical bisphenol A could harm children's development.

In the study of 249 pregnant women, the first to examine the effects of BPA on children's behavior, researchers found that girls whose mothers had the highest levels of BPA during pregnancy were more aggressive and hyperactive at age 2 than other girls. Findings appear today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Girls were more likely to be aggressive if their mothers had high levels of BPA — an estrogen-like chemical used in many consumer products — early in pregnancy or at about 16 weeks, the study says. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.

The girls had aggression scores that were similar to those of boys, as measured by a commonly used test, says co-author Joe Braun of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Boys appeared unaffected by BPA.

Braun says he plans to follow children until age 5, because behaviors can change over time.

Michelle Macias, a doctor and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, notes that the increases in aggression were subtle. "Nothing in this study suggests that these kids have higher rates of behavioral disorders," Macias says.

Hugh Taylor, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Yale University School of Medicine, notes that the new findings closely match the animal studies.

And Taylor says the study raises concerns about the effect of exposing a fetus to an artificial substance that mimics estrogen. Although estrogen is often considered a "female hormone," it actually helps to "masculinize" the male brain around the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy, says neurobiologist Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain.

"In the developing brain, timing is everything," Brizendine says. "I'm worried that tiny amounts of this stuff, given at just the wrong time, could partly masculinize the female brain."

Co-author Bruce Lanphear, a pediatrician at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, says there's already enough evidence to show that pregnant women should reduce their exposure to BPA. "We could end up doing a lot of harm by not acting," he says.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Antidepressants Raise Risk of Pre-Term Birth: Study

Danish women who took antidepressants during pregnancy had twice the risk of pre-term delivery as other women, and their babies were more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit than those of women who did not take the drugs, researchers reported on Monday.

They said antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, which affect a message-carrying brain chemical called serotonin, may raise the risk of pre-term delivery and affect a baby's health at birth.

Some prior studies have found that drugs in this class can cross the placenta and appear in the umbilical cord blood of babies whose mothers have taken them.

"The study justifies increased awareness to the possible effects of intrauterine exposure to antidepressants," Dr. Najaaraq Lund of the Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau, and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

About one in 10 pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy. Because depression can jeopardize a pregnant woman's health, doctors often prescribe antidepressants, but it is not yet clear how these drugs affect a baby's health.

To study this, Lund and colleagues analyzed data on 57,000 pregnancies and deliveries at Aarhus University Hospital in Skejby, Denmark, between 1989 to 2006.

They identified 329 pregnancies in which the mothers took an SSRI medication, another 4,902 with a history of psychiatric illness not treated with an antidepressant, and 51,700 with no history of psychiatric illness.

Women who took antidepressants while pregnant delivered their babies five days earlier than other women in the study, and had twice the risk of pre-term delivery than women with no history of psychiatric illness.

Babies exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy were far more likely than those in the other two groups to have a five-minute Apgar score -- a measure of a newborn's health -- of seven or below. Seven is typically an indicator of a healthy baby.

They were also more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, and some of these babies showed signs of withdrawal, such as jitters, seizures, respiratory problems, infections and jaundice.

The team found no differences in the babies' head size or birth weight among the three groups.

Antidepressants used by women in the study included Pfizer Inc's Zoloft, known generically as sertraline; Forest Laboratories Inc's Celexa, or citalopram, and Lexapro, or escitalopram; Eli Lilly and Co's Prozac or fluoxetine; and GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil or paroxetine.

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Neglecting Asthma Treatment During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Asthma in Child

Expectant mothers who eschew asthma treatment during pregnancy heighten the risk transmitting the condition to their offspring, according to one of the largest studies of its kind published in the European Respiratory Journal.

A research team from the Université de Montréal, the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center found that 32.6 percent of children born to mothers who neglected to treat their asthma during pregnancy developed the respiratory illness themselves.

"Uncontrolled maternal asthma during pregnancy could trigger a transient yet important reaction in the fetus that affects lung development and could subsequently increase the likelihood of a baby developing asthma in later childhood," warns lead author Dr. Lucie Blais, a professor at the Université de Montréal's Faculty of Pharmacy and researcher at the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal.

As part of the study, the research team examined a decade of health records for 8,226 children – from birth to 10 years of age – born to asthmatic mothers. Parents of these children were also mailed questionnaires requesting additional facts concerning familial medical history, lifestyle habits and environment.

"We found that failing to control maternal asthma during pregnancy clearly has an impact on asthma in offspring – a consequence that is independent of other contributing factors," says Dr. Blais. "It is of great importance for physicians to adequately treat asthmatic mothers during pregnancy, not only for the favourable outcome of pregnancy but also for the benefit of the child."

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Solvent used in Cape Cod pipes linked to birth defects

A new study published in an environmental health journal says babies born to Cape Cod women exposed in pregnancy to a chemical solvent in drinking water had an increased risk of birth defects.

A mother's exposure to PCE, also known as perchlorethylene, increased by threefold the risk a baby would have cleft palate or a neural tube defect, said lead researcher Ann Aschengrau, an epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health.

She worked with a team of researchers to study women from eight Cape towns who had been exposed to PCE in the vinyl lining of water pipes from 1969 to 1983.

Evidence is mounting that PCE, a solvent often used in dry cleaning, has an impact on fetal development, Aschengrau said. "Pregnant women are a vulnerable population. We really need to find out the effects of these chemicals among them."

Water contamination typically results from industrial disposal, but in the 1960s water pipes in several towns on the Cape and elsewhere in Massachusetts were purposely sprayed with vinyl plastic and PCE to improve the taste of drinking water, Aschengrau said.

Manufacturers wrongly assumed the PCE would disappear during the drying process, but large amounts remained and slowly leached into drinking water in Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, Provincetown, Brewster and Chatham, she said.

Aschengrau's study is important because it is able to single out PCE exposure as a risk factor, said Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, which researches environmental links to breast cancer.

Once the PCE contamination was detected, authorities cleared the pipes through a flushing process, saying replacing hundreds of miles of vinyl-coated pipe would be too expensive, Aschengrau said.

For her five-year study, researchers got records of where the coated pipe had been installed and used birth certificate records to track down women who'd used those water supplies during their pregnancies in a 15-year time period.

Cleft palate and neural tube defects were the only birth defects that stood out among the babies who had been exposed in the womb to PCE.

The number of children with these defects was small — 17, including those exposed and unexposed to PCE. Aschengrau said she'd like to do a follow-up study of PCE water pipe exposure across Massachusetts in order to obtain a bigger sample size.

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Pregnant Heidi Klum on Ellen

For your Monday pleasure, here is a very pregnant Heidi Klum on Ellen (guaranteed to make you laugh):