Friday, November 13, 2009

Nicotine Patches and Gum Seem Safe During Pregnancy

Nicotine patches and gum seem to be safe and effective in pregnant women, according to a new study.

Such patches and gum have been shown to help non-pregnant adults stop smoking, study co-author Dr. Geeta K. Swamy told Reuters Health. However, women and their obstetricians have been uncertain about their safety and effectiveness during pregnancy.

Dr. Swamy, from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues took another look at data on pregnant smokers who had participated in a study comparing psychological treatments with nicotine patches or gum to help them quit.

Adding nicotine patches or gum tripled the number of women who quit, from 8 percent to 24 percent.

Almost a third - 31 percent -- of the women who used the patch or gum had pregnancy complications, compared to 17 percent of the women who did not use it.

However, there was a much higher risk of such complications in black women, those with complications in previous pregnancies, and use of painkillers. The use of the patch did not seem to have a direct effect, the researchers note.

Based on the findings, although the patch is not "absolutely safe," it may still be worth using in heavy smokers, given the known association between smoking and bad pregnancy outcomes, particularly premature birth and low birth weight, they conclude.


Long Term Relationships Lead to Healthier Babies

Women in long-term relationships appear to have healthier pregnancies and births, claim scientists.

Researchers found they were less likely to suffer high blood pressure during pregnancy and less likely to give birth to smaller babies.

Scientists found that women who had slept with a partner exclusively for at least six months had fewer undersized babies and a lower rate of pre-eclampsia - pregnancy induced high blood pressure.

Experts believe that the reason for the healthier birth is long-term exposure to the biological father's sperm which boosts the immune system.

In the study by Auckland University in New Zealand researchers asked 2,507 first time pregnant women how long they had been with the baby's father.

It was found that when the pregnancies came to term, pre-eclampsia was found to be less common in women who had long-term sexual relations exclusively with the biological father, than in those who had been with their partner only for a short time.

The study also revealed that women who had undersized babies were also more likely to have been in shorter relationships.

Dr Larry Chamley, the lead author from the think tank Faculty of 1000 Medicine and also Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Auckland, said that female immune system was boosted by exposure to "paternal antigens" - beneficial antibodies in the male sperm.

"Although the issue of whether prolonged semen exposure does protect against developing pre-eclampsia is not yet resolved this paper seems to tip the weight of evidence back in favor of suggesting that prolonged semen exposure is protective," he said.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, were adjusted for the lifestyle and background of the women including their weight, whether they smoked and their general health.

Those who did not know the identity of the father were excluded from the research.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exercise Until End of Pregnancy Deemed Beneficial

"Partaking in low-level physical activity has beneficial effects on materno-fetal health." These findings have recently been published in the International Journal of Obesity and highlight the benefits for the health of the baby and the mother when a physically-active lifestyle is maintained throughout pregnancy.

"An exercise regime carried out during the second and third trimester of pregnancy does not harm the health of the fetus," said Jonatan R. Ruiz, researcher at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, and principal author of this study, who has coordinated a team from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in collaboration with the Swedish centre.

160 healthy women between the ages of 25 and 35 took part in the study, all of whom had sedentary habits and no risk of premature birth. Of this group of women, half followed an exercise regime under the supervision of experts in Physical Activity and Sports Science in collaboration with the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Unit of Hospital Severo Ochoa in Madrid.

The researchers used multiple variables to assess the health of the fetus (body weight, size and gestational age) in women, and they analyzed the effect of the training program carried out during the second and third trimester of pregnancy on the weight and size of the fetus.

"Body size and gestational age, as well as other health parameters, were similar in the group of women who followed the exercise regime compared to those who did no form of physical activity during pregnancy, which indicates that exercise poses no threat to the health of the fetus," Ruiz emphasizes.

The authors also measured the pre-pregnancy body weight of the mother, the body size of the fetus, and whether diabetes was developed during gestation. In the group of women who did not partake in any exercise (control group), it was observed that the mother's weight before becoming pregnant was positively associated with the weight of the newborn.

"Sedentary mothers of higher pre-gestational weight gave birth to heavier newborns. This relationship, however, was not observed in the group of women who exercised during pregnancy," the researcher concludes. According to experts, babies with excessive weight (more than 4 kg) are more at risk of developing diabetes and certain types of cancer as adults, in addition to complications that may occur at birth.


Treatment Effective for Identical Twin Pregnancy Complication

As the number of women having twins has increased, so has the odds of developing a serious pregnancy complication called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). This disorder affects as many as 15 percent of identical twin pregnancies, and results in uneven blood flow between the fetuses. Until recently the outcome was usually death or disabilities for the surviving babies.

Now a new minimally invasive laser treatment has improved the odds. Available at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital -- one of only 10 centers to offer it, and the only one in New York -- the procedure involves coagulating unnecessary and harmful blood connections between the two fetuses.

"This laser treatment has saved the lives of many twins with TTTS, giving them the chance to grow up healthy and strong," says Dr. Lynn Simpson, medical director of the Center for Prenatal Pediatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "The laser approach is straightforward and safe. And while it isn't always successful, it is a major improvement over the traditional approach of draining the mother's amniotic fluid."

Studies show that in about 90 percent of laser cases, one twin will survive, and in 70 percent of cases, both will. The traditional approach has a survival rate of only 66 percent for a single fetus. Normal brain development is also more likely in babies treated with the laser procedure.

Since Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital began offering laser treatment in July, all TTTS cases meeting criteria for coagulation therapy have been treated using the laser.

The hour-long procedure is performed under local or regional anesthesia and uses a tiny scope that carries the laser wire and a camera though the mother's abdomen and into her uterus. While it can be done on an outpatient basis, mothers are usually kept overnight for observation.

In identical twin pregnancies with TTTS, the fetal blood supply is abnormally connected within a shared placenta. Although each fetus uses its own portion of the placenta, the connecting vessels allow blood to pass from one twin to the other. Depending on the number, type and direction of the interconnecting blood vessels, blood can be transferred disproportionately from one twin (the "donor") to the other (the "recipient"). This causes the donor twin to have decreased blood volume, retarding its development and growth, while the larger recipient is at risk of heart failure due to an overworked heart. In rare cases, the condition can happen with triplets or higher multiples, when a pair of fetuses shares one placenta. If untreated early in pregnancy, in 80 to 90 percent of cases, both twins will die. The condition is usually diagnosed during the second trimester with a routine ultrasound.


Lower Pregnancy Risks By Asking Mom's History

Experts say it's wise to know both your parents' health histories, but ask your mom the right questions and you may be able to avoid a struggle later on. "Knowing your mother's gynecological history can really arm you with what you need to know to take proactive steps in the future," says Tracy Gaudet, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University and author of Body, Soul and Baby. Here are questions to help you start talking:

Did you have preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-induced condition that’s marked by high blood pressure, excess protein in the urine, severe headaches, and sudden weight gain that can lead to preterm birth and may require bed rest or induced labor near the end of a pregnancy. Women whose mothers had it are often thought to be at higher risk during their own pregnancies. But other factors may be more significant than your mom’s experience, Dr. Greene says. They include being overweight or older than 35, carrying multiples, having preexisting high blood pressure, or simply being pregnant for the first time. Of course, if you have any of these risk factors to go along with a mom who had preeclampsia, that can nudge the risk even higher.

How knowing helps: Tell your obstetrician if your mom had preeclampsia; she may want to monitor you extra closely. Keep your weight gain in the safe range (25 to 35 pounds if you’re not over- or underweight starting out), and go easy on salty and sugary foods.

Do we have a family history of any disease?

Family history can predict many health risks beyond gyno concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, and stroke. You want to know both of your parents’ histories, “but the links to these diseases are often stronger on the maternal side for a daughter,” Dr. Pinkerton says.

How knowing helps: Your mom’s history may prompt your doc to refer you to a genetic counselor, who can discuss a blood test that screens for genetic mutations. For many other diseases, a healthy lifestyle and simple preventive measures (such as watching your sugar intake if diabetes is a threat) can lower your risk, no matter the family connection. If your mom suffers from low bone mass, or osteopenia, that’s useful info, Dr. Pinkerton says.

“You’ll want to build bone density in your 30s by eating enough calcium and doing weight-bearing exercises like lifting weights or practicing yoga,” she explains. And in your mid-40s, a bone-density test should go on your list of issues to discuss with your doctor.

Read about Genetically Related Birth Defects.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baby Week on Discovery Health Starts Nov. 30th

Beginning Monday, November 30th, Discovery Health's Baby Week will commence. From expectant mothers' indomitable will to survive, to unconventional families' historic births, to high-risk pregnancies that defy all the odds - this edition of Baby Week features actual events.

The special programming begins each night at 8 PM (ET/PT) from Monday, November 30, through Friday, December 4.

Featured Baby Week world premieres include:

  • She Survived That...Pregnant?!
  • Transgendered and Pregnant
  • I'm Pregnant And...
  • Dwarf Adoption Story

Baby Week kicks off with the premiere of She Survived That...Pregnant?!, an hour-long special recounting the stories of pregnant women who survived deadly accidents and encounters that could have killed them--and their unborn children. The pregnant women include a woman whose parachute failed to open, causing her to land face-first on the ground; a woman who was first chased by a bear--and then after she managed to escape, was hit by a car; a woman who fell over a balcony and was impaled by a microphone stand; and a woman who was shot in the uterus, with her unborn baby suffering a bullet wound as well.

Transgendered And Pregnant premieres Tuesday, December 1, at 8 PM (ET/PT). This hour-long special tells the story of a transgendered couple--the wife, a male-to-female and the husband, a female-to-male transgender--expecting a baby under the most unusual of circumstances. In spite of ongoing hormone treatments, the male-to-female transgender wife managed to impregnate the husband, a female-to-male transgender--and Discovery Health’s cameras capture the couple throughout the pregnancy leading up to the birth of their first child.

I'm Pregnant And... premieres Tuesday, December 1, at 9:30 PM (ET/PT). This brand-new series follows the stories of women facing serious issues--emotional, physical, mental or circumstantial--as they navigate their nine-month journey through pregnancy. Topics explored throughout the six-part series include:

  • I'm Pregnant and I'm Addicted
  • I'm Pregnant and I Have an Eating Disorder
  • I’m Pregnant and Over 55

Expecting 15 Babies premieres Friday, December 4, at 8 PM (ET/PT).Three families experience the dangerous business of giving birth to and raising multiples, including the first Hispanic sextuplets in the United States, an expecting mother of quadruplets and a family with 22-month-old quintuplets!


Placenta Teddy Bear?

After giving birth, many women choose to have the placenta tossed out by hospitals. Some women are choosing less conventional ideas...

British designer Alex Green is taking people's placentas and turning them into teddy bears.

"I was very interested in how it was discarded unceremoniously as medical waste, why it's discarded and how we could bring it back…" said Green, who thought placentas deserved a symbolic treatment whether they're saved or not. "It was really about provoking a debate about placentas and how we treat them."

Green said that the placenta must first be cured with salt to kill the bacteria and remove water. He then softens it with eggs and tannins. Once the placenta is prepared, he sews it into the shape of the bear and fills it with brown rice.

"It's more heavy than you'd imagine -- they're more the sort of thing that you'd stick on a mantel pieces," Green told ABC. "It feels soft, somewhere between leather and suede but it's much more flexible than leather -- it's bendy."

Green knows that his idea isn't for everyone. "Of course a lot of people feel it's grotesque," said Green. "But, quite a few women have expressed interest in making them."

Many readers expressed disgust at the the concept. "This is just weird, and a gimmick, and yet one more thing to sit on a shelf, take up space, and collect dust. And, of course, lots of bucks for the 'artist' who thought it up," said LS on the blog ParentDish.

Added reader Ann, "Why turn the placenta into a teddy bear. That's disgusting...I think it's better to save the placenta and spinal cord in case the baby needs it to cure a disease in the future. It's called cord blood banking and so much more valuable than what has to be the most awkward teddy bear in the world."

But many treat the placenta with respect. Some cultures bury placentas and plant fruit trees on top of them as a living monument for the birth of their children. Discovery Green offers a how-to guide. Others believe that eating the placenta can be healthy for women who have just given birth. In Chinese medicine , eating placentas are said to replenish lost blood and nutrients. Some even believe it can help with postpartum depression.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gift Ideas for the Geeky Mom and her Offspring

Cuteness abounds at the thinkgeek webstore. Check out these adorable products for the geeky mom and her little ones, including a spill-proof bowl and Yoda backpack:

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tiffani Thiessen is Pregnant!

Saved By the Bell alum Tiffani Thiessen has a bun in the oven.

She and husband, artist and actor Brady Smith, are expecting their first baby next May.

Thiessen, 35, now stars on USA's drama White Collar.

She and Smith have been married since 2005. They shot down baby rumors last December.


World's Smallest Mother Pregnant With 3rd Child

Mrs Herald, who is just 2ft 4ins, was told that becoming pregnant could kill her but has already defied doctors to have two healthy babies.

The 35-year-old from Dry Ridge, Kentucky, USA, suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which causes brittle bones and underdeveloped lungs, and means she failed to grow.

Now Mrs Herald, who uses a wheelchair, and her husband Will, who is 5ft 9ins, are awaiting the birth of their third child, due in the next four weeks.

She cannot hold her daughter because her belly gets in the way, and has to rely on her husband Will to do most things around the house.

Mrs Herald admits being pregnant is "uncomfortable" and leaves her bedridden for weeks on end. By the time the new addition, a boy, is one he will already tower over his mum.

The couple met in 2000 while working for a supermarket in their home town and were desperate for a family after marrying in 2004.

But doctors warned Mrs Herald a baby would grow so large inside her tiny body it would eventually crush her organs.

"It broke my heart that I couldn't have kids," she said.

"All my life my parents had told me that I could do anything. Then there were these doctors telling me that we couldn't be a complete family. It really hurt."

Eight months later, the couple were thrilled when they discovered Mrs Herald was pregnant and decided to go ahead even though family and doctors begged them to reconsider.

"They all told me that I would die. They begged me not to have a baby. Even my mother said,' You know you won't survive right?'

"I told her: 'It's a miracle that I am here, that I have life, why couldn't this be a miracle too?'"

After 28 weeks, doctors performed a cesarean section and daughter Kateri was born, weighing just 2lbs and 1oz in 2006.

She grew well but there was heartbreak for the family when they discovered Kateri had inherited Mrs Herald's condition and would also never grow to a normal height.

But the young family resumed life as normal, before Mrs Herald became pregnant a year later.

"It was kind of like the last time, everyone screamed: 'What are you doing?' at us," she said.

"The doctors told me I was pushing my luck. But we just prayed that God would bring us through it."

She admits that the second pregnancy has taken its toll, saying: "It was hard, I got so much bigger faster. At my worst point I remember bursting into tears, because I looked like a beach ball with a head and little feet.

Doctors tried to let the second baby stay in Mrs Herald's body for as long as possible, letting her pregnancy go to 34 weeks before taking her into theatre.

Daughter Makaya who, at 18 inches was more than half her mum's body length when she was born, weighed 4lbs and 7oz.

Now both girls are bigger than their mother, who is now 30 weeks pregnant with her first boy.

She said: "It's getting tougher and tougher to move.

"We didn't plan to have more than two kids, we just think that they're a great gift to the world, and when I look at them I see Will and I feel so full of love, it's tough not to want more."


The Basics of Preparing the Baby Nursery

Before you start choosing bedding and matching nightlights, make sure you have the basics of the room ready.

Measure the room and sketch it on paper. Keep a copy in your wallet - you’ll refer to it during many stages of your nursery planning.

Include the heights and widths of the windows, closets, and doors.

Note the locations of electrical outlets, heat and air conditioning vents or systems, and light fixtures.

Take a look at the walls. Is there paneling or wallpaper that you would like to remove? An old coat of paint that needs refreshing?

The fastest and easiest way to create an environment is with paint. The new zero and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints are perfect for the nursery since they are odorless and emit no toxic gases. They also dry fast and cover well. These luscious, environmentally friendly products can be tinted to any color.

As for finishes, forget flat paint and go with eggshells and satins. They’re more durable and easier to clean. When you’re ready to choose a color, paint large samples on your walls and evaluate them during different times of the day. Colors change as the light does.

One coat or two? One might do, so after your first lap around the room, take a look for missed spots and then decide.

You can easily transform a room with wainscot or a simple chair rail. Supplies for either are available from a retailer like Home Depot. If you’d like to create the same kind of impact without hardware, try using a different color paint for the lower half (3 to 4 feet) of the walls – or paint a horizontal stripe around the perimeter of the room.

When your child is a bit older, you can add personality (and fun!) to his or her room by adding chalkboards, dry erase boards, or cork to the bottom half of the walls.

Floor coverings are not just attractive, but they can also cushion a delicate bottom, soften late night cries, and warm up a chilly room. If you have your heart set on wall-to-wall carpeting, pay attention to what the carpet's materials. Synthetic carpet can harbor dust and dirt, and some adhesives may contain V.O.C.’s.

If wall-to-wall carpeting is not in your plans, there are many options to consider. But before you explore your choices, evaluate your floor’s current condition. If you already have carpet, peel back a corner and take a peek. You may find hardwood, cement, or a plywood subfloor. This is your platform and it needs to be in good shape. Seams should be flush. Nails and screw heads must be sunk - you want to be able to vacuum and damp mop a child’s room.

Floor coverings made from natural products are allergen-free and a breeze to clean. These materials include: linoleum, bamboo, and cork.

Cork, the latest in eco-green flooring materials, is a harvested resource that retains warmth and is loaded with air pockets that act as natural shock and sound absorbers. Many cork tiles have no VOCs and come in an array of colors. Installation is very straightforward : You apply adhesive with a roller to a cleaned and prepared surface and glue the tiles down. And just like linoleum, cork cuts with a knife.

Laminates, such as the wood grained styles from Pergo, are popular in children’s rooms. Unlike hardwoods that are nailed into subfloors, laminate floors float on the surface. There are two kinds of laminates: the "snap-together" style, which is easier to install but not as structurally sound, and the "glue-together" type. Both are durable and childproof.

Map out where to place major furniture and necessities. These should include, but are not limited to:

  • Crib
  • Changing Table
  • Dresser (the changing table may be part of this)
  • Bookcase
  • Toy chest
  • Chair/Glider/Rocker

When deciding where to place the crib, consider the following:


For your baby’s safety, don’t place the crib under a window. Your child will be standing and climbing in no time and windows can lead to a dangerous fall.


Sooner than you think, your baby will be reaching out of her crib and grabbing at anything she can get her hands on. If you will be keeping the changing table, dresser, or other furniture near the crib, make sure you do not leave loose fabric, blankets, towels, or small items within baby’s reach.


You don’t want hot or cool air blowing on your baby's head. But you also don’t want your little one to get too hot or too cold; 65-70 degrees is the recommended temperature range.


Most babies sleep best in dark rooms. Look into blackout shades that can go under your drapes or curtains. There are also decorative, light-blocking roman shades are be attractive on their own. As your baby becomes more mobile, he can pull on drapes and curtains, or get tangled in window blind cords. To prevent these potential dangers, avoid using long curtains or drapes and consider cordless blinds or use cord protectors.


Lighting can help create a soothing environment and you'll want to include both bright and low level settings in your plan. Dimmer controls make it easy to go from playtime to naptime.


If your house is not already equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, look into installing these throughout your home and in the nursery.


If the room needs any major repairs, such as heating or electrical, take care of them as soon as possible. Once the baby arrives, it will become more difficult to work on these problems.


Home Fetal Heartbeat Monitors May Decieve, Experts Warn

Expectant mothers may enjoy listening to their unborn babies' heartbeats, but they shouldn't rely on home fetal heart monitors to provide an accurate picture of fetal health, researchers say.

The devices may provide false reassurance in some situations, according to Dr. Abhijoy Chakladar of Princess Royal Hospital in West Sussex, England.

In the British Medical Journal, Chakladar reported a case in which a 34-year-old woman who was 38 weeks pregnant went to the emergency department because she couldn't hear her baby's heartbeat with her home fetal heart monitor.

A few days earlier, she said she had noticed that the baby was moving far less than usual. However, she reassured herself that everything was OK by listening to the monitor. A couple of days later, when she listened again, she couldn't detect anything and sought medical help.

Physicians performed an ultrasound and found no fetal heart activity. They gave the diagnosis -- intrauterine death -- but could not explain why it had happened.

All blood tests and infection screens were normal. There was no significant microbial growth from the placenta or fetus, and the fetus seemed morphologically normal, Chakladar said.

He said the stillbirth "may have been unavoidable," but listening to the fetal heart monitor "certainly delayed presentation to the hospital."

"Without training," he added, sounds heard on the monitor "could easily be misinterpreted." Likely, the mother had simply heard her own pulse or placental flow instead.

Home monitoring devices can give only a snapshot of the heart rate and "provide no indication of other important prognostic features," he said.

Medical professionals provide context that an untrained mother can't, he added. For example, midwives and obstetricians take careful histories and make experienced observations before making interpretations for a diagnosis.

But the sale and use of at-home fetal heart monitors has been on the rise, Rebecca Coombes, associate editor of BMJ, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

The devices are often sold over the Internet, making it hard for the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency -- which is responsible for regulating fetal monitors classified as medical devices -- to take disciplinary action.

But not all fetal heart monitors are medical-grade. Coombes said the regulated products use medical-grade ultrasound Doppler devices, which have to conform to medical standards and can cost $500 or more. But cheaper devices that do not use ultrasound retail for as little as $33.

"These are not considered medical devices," she said.