Friday, February 26, 2010

Reader-Only Discount on Tiny Bites Food Shears

Tiny Bites is offering $1 off their popular food shears exclusively for our readers. Get the discount using the code: Parenting. You can read a review of the product here:

"Cut your baby's food into bite-sized pieces with ease using Tiny Bites Food Shears. These BPA-free scissors allow moms and dads to safely, easily and efficiently cut their child's food into small pieces to ensure safe consumption. Tiny Bite Food Shears also comes with a safety cover so the scissors won't rip up the insides of any bags and they'll always stay clean. You're probably thinking you can cut or rip up your child's food into little pieces and so did we. However, Tiny Bites will help keep the process sanitary, and it works well on grapes which aren't easily diced when your out and about..."

Read more of the review at The Scene or click here to check out the Tiny Bites website.

Twice as many women to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes

Two to three times more pregnant women may soon be diagnosed and treated for gestational diabetes, based on new measurements for determining risky blood sugar levels for the mother and her unborn baby, according to a study that was coordinated by investigators at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"As result of this study, more than 16 percent of the entire population of pregnant women qualified as having gestational diabetes," said lead author Boyd Metzger, M.D., the Tom D. Spies Professor of Metabolism and Nutrition at Feinberg and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Before, between 5 to 8 percent of pregnant women were diagnosed with this."

Blood sugar levels that were once considered in the normal range are now seen as causing a sharp increase in the occurrence of overweight babies with high insulin levels, early deliveries, cesarean section deliveries and potentially life-threatening preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother has high blood pressure that affects her and the baby.

Large babies, the result of fat accumulation, are defined as weighing in the upper 10 percent of babies in a particular ethnic group. Because large babies increase the risk of injury during vaginal delivery, many of the women in the study were more likely to have a cesarean section.

The good news, Metzger noted, is recent studies show women with mild gestational diabetes, who were treated with lifestyle and diet changes as well as blood sugar monitoring, greatly reduced their risk of complications. As a result of treatment, the women had smaller babies, fewer cesarean deliveries and less preeclampsia, Metzger said.

Based on a study of more than 23,000 women in nine countries, Metzger and an international group of 50 experts concluded a fasting blood sugar level of 92 or higher, a one-hour level of 180 or higher on a glucose tolerance test or a two-hour level of 153 or higher on a glucose tolerance test constitute serious risks to the mother and baby. Previously, these levels had been considered in the safe, normal range, and two elevated levels were required for a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

"At these levels, the frequency of having an overweight baby is almost double, the frequency of having preeclampsia is almost double, and the frequency of early delivery is 40 percent greater," Metzger said. "These are really substantial differences."

"This study says these risks to pregnancy are like many things we deal with in medicine," Metzger said. "The risk of having a stroke doesn't begin when your blood pressure is 140 over 80. That's when we say you have hypertension, but that's not where the risk begins to affect your health. That starts sooner. A similar situation is how your cholesterol level relates to the risk of having heart disease. It doesn't begin at 200. That's where it reaches the threshold where common treatments can reduce the risks."

"Our research represents an examination of risks and a consensus about how high a level the risk needs to reach before a diagnosis should be made and treatment should be considered," Metzger said.

For the past decade, the rate of gestational diabetes as previously measured has soared as much as 50 percent. "We shouldn't be surprised," Metzger said. "The fact that we have a lot of gestational diabetes to deal with is consistent with the major impact that diabetes and obesity are having in our population at large. How could we expect pregnancy to escape that?"


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Parenting Triumphs Over Prenatal Stress

A mother's nurture may provide powerful protection against risks her baby faces in the womb, according to a new article published online today in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The research shows that fetuses exposed to high levels of stress hormone - shown to be a harbinger for babies' poor cognitive development - can escape this fate if their mothers provide them sensitive care during infancy and toddler-hood.

The new study represents the first, direct human evidence that fetuses exposed to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may have trouble paying attention or solving problems later on. But what may be more intriguing is the study's second finding – that this negative link disappears almost entirely if the mother forges a secure connection with her baby.

"Our results shape the argument that fetal exposure to cortisol – which may in part be controlled by the mother's stress level – and early caregiving experience combine to influence a child's neurodevelopment," said study author Thomas O'Connor, Ph.D., professor of Psychiatry and of Psychology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and director of the Wynne Center for Family Research. "If future studies confirm these findings, we'll need to not only engineer ways to reduce stress in pregnancy, but we'll need to also promote sensitive caregiving by moms and dads."

For the study, researchers recruited 125 women at an amniocentesis clinic in an urban maternity hospital, taking a sample of their amniotic fluid so that stress hormones in it could be measured. The mothers were at 17 weeks gestation on average; only mothers with normal, healthy pregnancies and subsequent deliveries were followed.

When their children reached 17 months of age, researchers administered a Bayley infant developmental scale test, which relies on puzzles, pretend play, and baby "memory" challenges to gauge youngsters' cognitive development. They also observed the baby and mother using the Ainsworth "Strange Situation" test, which judges child-rearing quality, categorizing mom-baby pairs as either showing secure or insecure attachment to each other.

With cortisol levels, relationship quality results, and cognition scores in hand, researchers analyzed how the first two measures might influence the third. Indeed, for children showing "insecure attachment" to their mothers, a high prenatal cortisol level was linked with shorter attention spans and weaker language and problem-solving skills. But interestingly, for kids who enjoyed secure relationships with their moms, any negative link between high prenatal cortisol exposure and kids' cognitive development was eliminated.

"This is such refreshing news for mothers," O'Connor said. "Pregnancy is an emotional experience for many women, and there is already so much for mothers to be careful of and concerned about. It's a relief to learn that, by being good parents, they might 'buffer' their babies against potential setbacks."

O'Connor goes on to note a couple important nuances of the study. The first is that the amniotic (in-utero) cortisol studied could result from two sources, and it's hard to pinpoint which. It might, for instance, be passed along the placenta from an anxious mother to her unborn baby – or it could be created and excreted directly by a stressed fetus itself.

This study plays into the much larger theory of "fetal programming," which suggests that events in the womb may prime the developing child for long-term health and developmental outcomes. Past studies, for instance, have found a pregnant mother's diet can sway a child's long-term risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Along with diet, prenatal stress has emerged as another large-looming factor in such programming.

"Our results support this emerging theory," said London-based study co-author, Vivette Glover, Ph.D. "In neurology, the idea emerging is that unborn children sense their mothers' stress hormone levels, programming them for greater watchfulness. We're trying to determine whether or not that sensitivity comes with greater anxiety during childhood, and if so, what we can do about it."


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Parents are Giving Kids Unusual Names

Celebrities aren't the only ones giving their babies unusual names. Compared with decades ago, parents are choosing less common names for kids, which could suggest an emphasis on uniqueness and individualism, according to new research.

Essentially, today's kids (and later adults) will stand out from classmates. For instance, in the 1950s, the average first-grade class of 30 children would have had at least one boy named James (top name in 1950), while in 2013, six classes will be necessary to find only one Jacob, even though that was the most common boys' name in 2007.

The researchers suspect the uptick of unusual baby names could be a sign of a change in culture from one that applauded fitting in to today's emphasis on being unique and standing out. When taken too far, however, this individualism could also lead to narcissism, according to study researcher Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University.

The results come from an analysis of 325 million baby names recorded by the Social Security Administration from 1880 to 2007. The research team figured out the percentage of babies given the most popular name or a name among the 10, 20, or 50 most popular for that year and sex. Since it wasn't required that people get a social security card until 1937, names before that time may not be random samples of the population, the researchers note.

Results showed parents were less likely to choose those popular names as time went on. For instance, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, about 5 percent of babies were named the top common name, while more recently that dropped to 1 percent.

  • About 40 percent of boys received one of the 10 most common names in the 1880s, while now fewer than 10 percent do.
  • For girls, the percentage with a top-10 name dropped from 25 percent in about 1945 to 8 percent in 2007.
  • Similar results were seen for the top-50 names. About half of girls received one of the 50 most popular names until the mid-20th century. Now, just one in four have these names.

This trend in baby-naming didn't show a constant decrease. Between 1880 and 1919, fewer parents were giving their children common names, though from 1920 to the 1940s common names were used more often than before. Then, when baby boomers came on the scene, so did more unusual names.

The results held even when the researchers accounted for immigration rates and increasing Latino populations, which could bring relatively less common names into the mix.

"The most compelling explanation left is this idea that parents are much more focused on their children standing out," Twenge told LiveScience. "There's been this cultural shift toward focusing on the individual, toward standing out and being unique as opposed to fitting in with the group and following the rules."

The positive side of individualism, Twenge said, is that there is less prejudice and more tolerance for minority groups. But she warns that when individualism is taken too far, the result is narcissism.

Past research has shown that back in the 1950s parents placed a lot of importance on a child being obedient, which has gone way down. "Parenting has become more permissive and more child-focused and [parents] are much more reluctant to be authority figures," Twenge said.

As for whether these unusually named kids will have personalities to match is not known.

"It remains to be seen whether having a unique name necessarily leads to narcissism later in life," Twenge said. "If that unique name is part of a parent's overall philosophy that their child is special and needs to stand out and that fitting in is a bad thing, then that could lead to those personality traits."


15% off Umi baby and toddler shoes, ends March 2

Enjoy 15% off at Umi. The sale on these baby and toddler shoes ends March 2nd. Use promo code: SS15DISC.

Umi makes quality, flexible shoes for your little one in a wide-range of styles. Check them out here.

Cancer survivor is the first mother of two after an ovary transplant

When Stinne Holm Bergholdt of Denmark was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 27, she was afraid she wouldn't be able to have children.

So she asked her doctors if they could remove an ovary before her treatment and transplant it back afterward to preserve her fertility.

More than six years later, Bergholdt and her husband now have two daughters, making her the first woman in the world to give birth twice after an ovary transplant. "It's hard to believe it's really true," said Bergholdt. "It's like a dream that I never would have thought possible a few years ago."

On the day before she started chemotherapy, doctors took 13 strips of ovarian tissue from Bergholdt's right ovary and froze them. After eight months of cancer treatment and another year of recovery, doctors reimplanted seven of the strips, or about 20 percent of an entire ovary.

Bergholdt's ovary began working again after a few months, and she then had in-vitro fertilization to become pregnant. Nearly a year later, she gave birth to daughter Aviaja, now 3. Bergholdt's treatment was paid for by the Danish health system.

When Bergholdt and her husband decided they wanted a second child, they went back to the fertility clinic, but it turned out that she was already pregnant. About a year ago, she gave birth to another daughter, Lucca.

"We were really surprised that she had done it herself," said Dr. Claus Yding Andersen, one of Bergoldt's doctors at University Hospital of Copenhagen. "We did not expect the ovary transplant to still be working after four years."

The transplant is working so well that Bergholdt is currently using birth control to avoid becoming pregnant again.

Eight children have been born worldwide to women who have had ovary transplants but no other woman has had more than one pregnancy after having a transplant.

The technique has been mostly used for cancer patients, but could become more widespread as the technology is refined, Andersen said.

"It shows we can stop the clock by freezing the ovaries," he said.

Women who want to delay having children might also be interested in the procedure although that could raise some ethical issues, he added.

Others thought an ovary transplant was much too invasive to become more widespread.

"To suggest that a healthy woman would have two operations (to remove and reimplant the ovary) for the sake of social convenience, to have children later, is ludicrous," said Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, who was not linked to the research. "It's far easier to just freeze your eggs."

Still, Pacey said Bergholdt's case proved that ovary transplants were a viable way to preserve women's fertility and should reassure cancer patients they won't automatically be left sterile.

For Bergholdt, the transplant was a blessing.

"It was very hard to believe after everything I'd been through I could actually have children," she said. "Now that we know this technique works, it should be available to every woman who goes through cancer treatment."


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

20% off Patemm Changing Pads

For the duration of the Olympic games, Patemm is offering a 20% discount on their changing pads when you use the code: GOLD. The offer and the games end on February 28th. You can read a review of their changing pads here:

"These circular, stylish changing pads contain pockets for storage and fold up to turn into a cute bag. Made of 100% organic cotton (there is a non-organic choice too), they are available in laminated and waterproof or in untreated cotton. They are all machine-washable and free of harmful chemicals. We love the different styles they come in: the new york city momma, san francisco momma, hibiscus and many more..."

Learn more about Patemm

Monday, February 22, 2010

Expectant Couple Tie the Knot During Labor

A Wisconsin couple had just one request for the hospital where their baby was to be born this week: Get us married, STAT.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, the wedding of parents-to-be Erin Heather and Mark Weber was to take place only a week before their baby's Feb. 26 due date.

But when Heather went into labor prematurely, at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, she and her boyfriend of 11 years rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Madison to say their "I do's" in a makeshift chapel there instead, at 11 in the morning rather than 4:30 in the afternoon.

On the way, they stopped to pick up the marriage license – and notified St. Mary’s about their needs, all according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

An ordained minister friend of Weber's officiated at the ceremony, which was attended by a few friends, a handful of hospital staff – and a smattering of journalists.

The couple were in such a hurry to get married because, the new dad informed the newspaper, of "old-fashioned grandparents" and a desire to officially be "a family" when their child arrived.

The baby, a girl, was born Thursday night.


Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy Raises Gestational Diabetes Risk

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy, especially the first trimester, may increase a woman's risk of gestational diabetes, say U.S. researchers.

Their three-year study included 345 pregnant women with gestational diabetes and 800 pregnant women without gestational diabetes, which is defined as glucose intolerance that typically occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

After the researchers adjusted for a number of factors -- age at delivery, previous births, pre-pregnancy body-mass index and race/ethnicity -- they found that women who gained more weight during pregnancy than recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine were 50 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes, compared to those whose weight gain was within or below the IOM recommendations.

The link between pregnancy weight gain and gestational diabetes was strongest among overweight and non-white women.

The study was published online Feb. 22 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Gestational diabetes -- which causes complications in as many as 7 percent of pregnancies in the United States -- can lead to early delivery, cesarean section and type 2 diabetes in the mother. It also increases the child's risk of developing diabetes and obesity later in life.


Black women at increased risk for weakened heart muscle at childbirth

Black women are at significantly increased risk for developing a potentially deadly weakening of the heart muscle around the time of childbirth, researchers report.

A study examining the incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy in women who gave birth at a Medical College of Georgia's teaching hospital between July 2003 and July 2008, showed that while 55 percent of the women were white, 93 percent of those who developed cardiomyopathy were black, said Dr. Mindy B. Gentry, an MCG cardiologist.

"When it hits, it's totally unexpected because these are young, otherwise healthy women with young children. (They aren't patients) you'd expect to have any sort of health problem much less heart failure," Dr. Gentry said.

Other risk factors include hypertension, being unmarried, smoking during pregnancy and having more than two previous pregnancies, but African-American race was the most important predictor, said Dr. Gentry, corresponding author on the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Two previously published studies from Haiti and South Africa found a higher incidence of peripartum cardiomyopathy than in other parts of the world but essentially all the participants were black. The heterogeneous population giving birth at MCGHealth Medical Center made it easier to assess the effect of race, Dr. Gentry noted.

Further research is needed to identify potential environmental and/or genetic factors associated with African descent that explain the increased risk, the researchers said. They have begun follow up studies looking for any racial differences in healthy hearts following delivery, such as how much blood is ejected with each beat.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy typically occurs in the last month of pregnancy or the first few months after delivery. Symptoms include shortness of breath, particularly when lying down, as excess fluid congests the lungs and the rest of the body. The suffocating backlog is caused by an enlarged, stiff heart muscle that no longer pumps efficiently.

Drugs can improve pumping efficiency. About half the time, the condition spontaneously reverses but it can cause debilitation and death, with mortality rates ranging from 15-56 percent. Of the 28 women with peripartum cardiomyopathy in the MCG study, one patient died and another required a heart transplant.

In every pregnancy, the blood volume increases about 50 percent to accommodate increased demands from the placenta and baby. Heart rate increases to help circulate the extra blood, Dr. Gentry said. Black women also are at increased risk for abnormal increases in blood pressure, called preeclampsia, that can occur late in pregnancy.

Maternal Antidepressants May Delay Infant Milestones

Exposure to antidepressants in late pregnancy may affect children's developmental milestones, according to a study published online Feb. 22 in Pediatrics.

Lars Henning Pedersen, M.D., of Aarhus University in Denmark, and colleagues analyzed Danish National Birth Cohort data on children born to 415 women who used antidepressant medications during pregnancy, 489 women who reported depression and no antidepressant use during pregnancy, and 81,042 women who reported no depression and no use of psychotropic medication.

Compared to children not exposed to antidepressants, the researchers found that sitting and walking were delayed by 15.9 and 28.9 days, respectively, in those with second- or third-trimester exposure to antidepressants, but that these milestones were still achieved within the normal range of development. They also found that second- or third-trimester exposure to antidepressants was associated with a lower likelihood of sitting without support at age 6 months and self-occupation at age 19 months (odds ratio, 2.1 for both milestones).

"The results of our study suggest an effect of antidepressant exposure on fetal brain development," the authors conclude. "At follow-up evaluation, we found associations between exposure to antidepressants in late pregnancy and motor development, particularly for boys. The clinical and public health relevance of the results is not known, and longer follow-up monitoring of the children, with the use of more developmental end points, is needed."


Most 'Test Tube' Kids Are Healthy

More than 30 years after the world greeted its first "test-tube" baby with a mixture of awe, elation and concern, researchers say they are finding only a few medical differences between these children and kids conceived in the traditional way.

More than 3 million children have been born worldwide as a result of what is called assisted reproductive technology, and injecting sperm into the egg outside the human body now accounts for about 4 percent of live births, researchers reported Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The majority of assisted reproduction children are healthy and normal, according to researchers who have studied them. Some of these children do face an increased risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects, and of low birth weight, which is associated with obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes later in life, the researchers said.

Carmen Sapienza, a geneticist at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, noted that few of these test tube children are older than 30, so it's not known if they will be obese or have hypertension or other health problems at age 50 or older.

Sapienza said researchers found differences in 5 percent to 10 percent of chromosomes between assisted reproduction children and other kids.

What's not clear is whether these differences result in some way from assisted reproduction techniques or if they stem from other factors, perhaps ones that caused the couple's infertility in the first place.

One factor in low birth weight may be that in many cases assisted fertility results in multiple births, which tend to be early and of lower weight.

Sapienza noted that women seeking assisted reproduction tend to be older than those who conceive naturally, but said that had been controlled for in the studies comparing the two groups of children.

Dolores J. Lamb of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston urged more testing of males for the reason for infertility.

"There are correctable causes of male infertility and a couple can then have children the natural way," she said. Also, infertility can be the first symptom of diseases such as testicular cancer, Lamb said.

As of 2008, the most recent data available, the United States reported that 361 clinics did 140,795 treatment cycles leading to the birth of 56,790 babies.