Friday, March 05, 2010

Toddler and baby siblings 'are quadruplets'

A Lincolnshire woman has had triplets, two years after the birth of her first daughter from the same set of eggs, making them quadruplets, doctors said.

Experts at Nottingham's Care Fertility Clinic described the latest births as "most unusual".

The Baxter family, from Grantham, said they were "gobsmacked" by the arrivals.

"It is most unusual to see a set of triplets born from frozen embryos after a successful previous pregnancy from the same batch," a Care spokesman said.

The babies' mother, Helen Baxter, had frozen her remaining embryos after falling pregnant with Alice, now two, and then doctors defrosted them and put three back.

Alice now has sisters Niamh and Maisie and a brother, Noah, who were born in January.

We run a big unit and we have never seen anything like it before in... 15 years Ken Dowell, Care Fertility Clinic

"We were gobsmacked," Mrs Baxter said. "It was a complete shock. We never imagined that we would end up with three babies from that same batch.

"We went through the first cycle of fertility treatment and they harvested nine eggs from me, of which eight were fertilized.

"We put two back in and we got Alice.

"When we went through the cycle again they put three back in."

Mrs Baxter said: "We have had to buy a new car obviously to accommodate everybody. We have had to go out and buy three of everything - which has been a bit of a shock."


Baby Weighs Half-Pound at Birth, Survives

The world's smallest-ever surviving baby boy - just 9 ounces when he was born - is eight months old now and doing well, Sky News reported Friday.

The tiny child - smaller than a can of soda - was born after just 25 weeks.

He was so little at birth that a tape measure laid next to his body was wider than his limbs.

Doctors in Germany were convinced he would not survive, but refused to give up hope.

Now, eight months after his birth, doctors have finally released a picture of the baby, confident he is strong enough to make it through.

The child is the smallest baby boy ever to survive. There have been three girls who have weighed less at birth. The most premature baby to survive, a girl born in Miami in 2004, is believed to have been born after 21 weeks.

Experts on medical ethics advise doctors not to resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks in the womb.

The baby in Germany was delivered by Caeserean section at the University of Medicine at Goettingen in June 2009.

A spokesman for the university told Sky News Online that doctors were "extremely proud" of the boy and the parents were overjoyed.

"This was an incredible fight for life," the spokesman said.


Slight increase in home births reverses 15-year decline

After a steady 15-year decline, the percentage of U.S. babies not born in a hospital rose slightly in 2005 and remained stable in 2006, according to a government report released Wednesday.

Even so, the proportion of out-of-hospital births is still less than 1% - a far cry from the 44% in 1940, the authors write in National Vital Statistics Reports.

In 2004, out-of-hospital births represented 0.87% of total U.S. births, rising to 0.9% in 2005 and staying at that level in 2006. That year, 38,568 births occurred out of a hospital, including 24,970 at home and 10,781 in a free-standing birth center.

"I don't really know what caused that little jump," says lead author Marian MacDorman, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I guess we'll keep monitoring it."

The proportion of out-of-hospital births in 2005-2006 varied among states, from more than 2% in Vermont and Montana to 0.2% in Louisiana and Nebraska. Factors such as weather, proximity to a hospital and attitudes toward home birth among women and local doctors might play a role in state-by-state differences, MacDorman says.

Besides state differences, there were also ethnic differences. The increase in home births occurred only among non-Hispanic white women, MacDorman notes.

While midwives attended the majority of home births in 2006, more than a third of babies born at home were delivered by "other" birth attendants, such as a family member, emergency medical technician or taxi driver.

Physicians delivered only 7.6% of babies born at home in 2006, compared with 21.6% in 1990. In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, citing safety concerns, issued a policy statement opposing home birth. The following year, the American Medical Association passed a resolution supporting the OB/GYNs' position.

In 2006, birth certificates in 19 states — representing about half of all U.S. births — asked whether a home birth was planned or unplanned. In those states, which the authors note are not representative of the entire U.S. population, about one in six home births, or 17%, were unplanned. They likely were emergencies that might have involved rapidly progressing labor or other complications.

Even including emergency home births, babies born at home still were less likely to be low birth weight, a multiple or premature, the authors write. That suggests pregnant women are being screened to see if they are low-risk candidates for home birth, according to the report.

"Could more women deliver at home? Absolutely," says co-author Eugene Declercq, a professor of maternal and child health at Boston University. The question, Declercq says, is whether they want to. The proportion of home births in the USA is comparable to that of other industrialized countries except for the Netherlands, the authors write, where about 30% occur at home.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ron Howard Dishes on Becoming a Grandparent

Legendary film maker Ron Howard is making a behind-the-scenes return to TV in NBC's Parenthood, years after finding fame on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. Married for 35 years, Ron and Cheryl Howard are proud parents to four children - daughters Bryce Dallas, 29, twins Jocelyn Carlyle and Paige Carlyle, 24, and son Reed Cross, 22 - and grandparents to 2 1/2-year-old grandson Theo. Ron opened up to Parade about how he has grown since becoming a father and the profound experience of being a grandparent.

On his personal growth since having children: "Humor is unavoidable. It might not feel funny in the moment, but more often than not there's a light at the end of the tunnel and you can personally look back and find the laughs in being a parent. I felt pressure about being a father, more pressure than I would have ever imagined -- trying to do it right, to be what I should be to my kids. At the same time, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think I've probably learned more and grown more because I'm a father than for any other reason."

On preparing for the twins: "When we had our first child, it was very manageable. But then we found out that Cheryl was going to have twins and she was in a bed for three or four months and she was going crazy. For the first time in my life, I had to take a lot of extra responsibility at home. At the same time I was trying to get ready to film Cocoon. I had a few times when I had to ask myself, 'Can I do this? Will I be able to do this?' And I suddenly realized that I could handle it. I think that was a watershed time in my life both as a parent and as a person."

On being a grandpa: "My daughter Bryce has a son who's almost three. And I love being with him. I didn't remotely understand how profound the experience of being a grandparent is until you become one. It's interesting, when you become a grandparent you start bumping into other folks who have had that experience. And there's this sort of wink and a nod like it's sort of a club or something."


Prevent Food Allergies in Babies During Pregnancy

If one child has food allergies, how can a pregnant woman help ensure her next child won't be affected too?

By avoiding exposure to the food her child is allergic is to - starting in the third trimester and continuing into the second year of life, say researchers from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, Australia.

Seven out of 10 babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had no food allergies vs. 45% of babies whose moms did not follow the doctors' advice, says pediatrician and study leader Velencia Soutter, MD.

That means eliminating the offending food not only from the diet but also from the environment, she says.

"Take peanut allergies, for example. If someone eats a lot of peanuts in your house, there is going to be aerosolized peanut protein in the environment. You need a clean household," Soutter tells WebMD.

Soutter says she undertook the study because "parents of kids with food allergies came to us asking, 'What can we do so this doesn't happen again?' They were desperate."

The study involved 274 pregnant mothers of children with peanut, egg, or milk allergies.

"We didn't tell them what to do, but gave them a lot of advice about how to avoid the food [their child was allergic to]. We started in the third trimester so everything would be in place when the baby was born," she says.

The women were also encouraged to breastfeed, which has been shown to protect against the development of allergies in some studies, Soutter says.

About two-thirds of the women followed their advice.

At 1 and 1/2 and 3 years of age, the babies were evaluated for symptoms of allergic disease and given skin prick tests to determine if they showed susceptibility to the same food allergies as their older siblings.

"The results were dramatic," Soutter says.

Thirty percent of babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had one or more food allergies vs. 55% of babies whose moms didn't take those avoidance measures.

Babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures were less likely to develop symptoms of asthma: Only 11% exhibited symptoms by the age of 3, compared with 43% of babies whose mothers didn't avoid the offending foods.

Robert Wood, MD, director of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, tells WebMD that pregnant women should not feel guilty if they do not want to follow avoidance measures.

"I explain to my patients that exposure [to food allergens] in pregnancy seems to be a risk factor in some studies, but the results are not consistent. We don't have the answer," he says.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Delay Pregnancy to Avoid Repeat Premature Rupture of Membranes

Women whose water has broken early may want to wait at least 18 months before having their next child, new research shows.

Known by doctors as preterm premature rupture of membranes, this complication, in which a woman's water breaks before her pregnancy has reached full term and before labor has begun, occurs in up to 5 percent of pregnancies, Dr. Darios Getahun of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group in Pasadena and colleagues note in their report.

The complication accounts for one in every four premature births, they report in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and puts mother and fetus at risk of infection.

While the reasons why some women's water breaks early are "elusive," Getahun and his team say, there are likely many factors involved. Women who have had the complication previously, they add, are known to be at greater risk in subsequent pregnancies. And the risk is also known to be higher for black women compared to whites.

To investigate whether the length of time between pregnancies might also influence this risk, the researchers reviewed data from the state of Missouri on nearly 200,000 women who had two or three children between 1989 and 1997. Around 3 percent of black women and 1 percent of white women's water broke early during their first or second pregnancies.

Among white women whose water broke early, 6 percent had the complication in their subsequent pregnancy, compared to 2 percent of women who hadn't suffered premature membrane rupture.

The rates for black women were 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively. This translated to a nearly nine-fold increased risk of subsequent early water breaking for white women, and a seven-fold greater risk for black women.

The risk was even further increased if a woman got pregnant again within 18 months, and was particularly high for African-American women. For example, a black woman who got pregnant again within three to six months would be nearly nine times more likely to have the complication than a woman who waited at least 18 months.

The risk of early water breaking for white women who got pregnant again this soon was tripled.

This suggests, the researchers say, that the complication may be related to inflammation, and that a longer interval between pregnancies is needed to allow for full recovery. "We think that it might be a chronic inflammation that may persist from one pregnancy to another pregnancy," Getahun told Reuters Health.

Women whose water has broken early should be watched closely in subsequent pregnancies, he added, so that if infection does develop they can receive prompt antibiotic treatment, which could help prevent the complication from recurring.


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Cure for Food Allergies and Eczema?

New studies are making headway in the pursuit of cures for both eczema and food allergies, and it turns out the two are related.

Infants with eczema are at high risk of having peanut and other food allergies, British researchers report.

"We were shocked to find out that even in the first year of life, over 20% of infants with eczema already were sensitized [showed susceptibility] to peanut allergy," says Graham Roberts, MD, a pediatric allergist at King's College London.

Roberts tells WebMD that by the time they enter school, children with eczema have a high rate of peanut allergies.

"But we didn't know how early the peanut allergy started; we thought may at 3, 4, or 5 years of age," he says.

The new research suggests peanut allergy develop much earlier, Roberts says.

The study involved 640 infants aged 4-11 months with eczema.

The researchers measured blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an immune system protein the body makes in response to allergens. A positive result means a person is sensitive to and likely to be allergic to a certain food.

The results showed:

  • 23% of the infants were sensitive to peanuts.
  • 31% were sensitive to cow's milk.
  • 22% were sensitive to sesame.
  • 16% were sensitive to Brazil nuts.
  • 20% were sensitive to hazel nuts.
  • 21% were sensitive to cashews.
  • 14% were sensitive to almonds.

Sixteen percent of the infants tested positive for more than four foods.

Roberts says this is the first step in an ongoing study designed to test the hypothesis that giving infants foods to which they are sensitized will prevent allergies later in life.

The hypothesis is supported by the fact that Jewish children in London are about 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies than Israeli children "and one of the biggest differences is that kids in Israel are introduced to [peanuts] early in life," says Hugh Sampson, MD, professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.


A daily dose of peanut powder could help some children who are allergic to peanuts, according to a pair of U.S. studies that confirm earlier findings, offering hope that a treatment could come soon.

In one study, teams at Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences gave 15 children tiny, but increasing, doses of peanut powder and compared them with eight children who got a placebo.

At the end of the year-long study, children given the treatment were on average able to tolerate 15 peanuts before having an allergic reaction.

"We started out literally at about a one-thousandth of a peanut and built that up over time," Dr. Wesley Burks of Duke, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview.

In the second study, 12 children treated with peanut powder from age 32 months to 5 years old were monitored to see whether they could safely eat peanuts after the daily treatment stopped. The children were off the treatment for a month before they were given peanuts.

Nine of the 12 now have peanuts in their diets, the researchers reported at a meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in New Orleans.

The research builds on previous studies, in which children were able to tolerate the treatment for more than two years and four appeared to be freed of their peanut allergies.

Burks said the results are encouraging but more research is needed before an effective treatment can be developed.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Smoking in pregnancy risks psychotic children

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy put their children at greater risk of developing psychotic symptoms as teenagers, British scientists said on Thursday.

Researchers from four British universities studied 6,356 12-year-olds and interviewed them for psychotic-like symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. Around 19 percent had mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

Just over 11 percent, or 734 of the total group, had suspected or definite symptoms of psychosis.

Many previous studies have shown cigarettes can harm the fetuses of mothers who smoke while pregnant. The risks include causing babies to be born smaller and increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or heart defects.

Stanley Zammit, a psychiatrist at Cardiff University's School of Medicine who led the study, said the more the mothers smoked, the more likely their children were to have psychotic symptoms.

"We can estimate that about 20 percent of adolescents in this cohort would not have developed psychotic symptoms if their mothers had not smoked," he said.

Despite countless studies flagging up the risks to babies, it is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of women in Britain smoke during pregnancy.

The researchers also found drinking during pregnancy was associated with increased psychotic symptoms, but only in children whose mothers had drunk more than 21 units of alcohol a week in early pregnancy.

The reasons for the link between maternal smoking and psychotic symptoms are not clear, but Zammit and colleagues suggested that exposure to tobacco in the womb might affect a child's impulsivity, attention or cognition.

Only a few mothers in the study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said they had smoked cannabis during pregnancy, and this was not found to have any significant link with psychotic symptoms.