Friday, April 09, 2010

James Van Der Beek, Girlfriend Expecting a Baby

Dawson's going to be a daddy!

James Van Der Beek and girlfriend Kimberly Brook are expecting their first child this fall, the actor's rep has confirmed.

"Yes, it's true - the woman I love and I are expecting our first child," Van Der Beek, 33, Tweeted. "Currently experiencing joy on levels I never knew existed."

Former Dawson’s Creek star Van Der Beek — who’s currently appearing on NBC’s Mercy — and Brook, a business consultant, met last July after the actor split from ex-wife Heather Ann McComb.


Obesity in Pregnancy Ups Risk of Heart Defect in Baby

Obese pregnant women are at increased risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect, a new study finds.

On average, obesity is associated with a 15 percent increased risk of having a baby with a heart defect. But the risk rises with the level of obesity. Compared to normal-weight women, the risk is 11 percent higher in moderately obese women and 33 percent higher in morbidly obese women.

In general, women who were overweight but not obese had no increased risk, said the researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the New York State Department of Health.

"The trend is unmistakable: the more obese a woman is, the more likely she is to have had a child with a heart defect," study first author Dr. James L. Mills, of the NICHD's Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research, said in a news release.

For this study, researchers compared the records of mothers of 7,392 children born with major heart defects and more than 56,000 mothers of infants born without birth defects. Because the study looked at the records of infants after they were born, it doesn't conclusively prove that obese women who lose weight before becoming pregnant will reduce their risk of having a baby with a heart defect, the researchers noted.

However, "if a woman is obese, it makes sense for her to try to lose weight before becoming pregnant," Mills said. "Not only will weight loss improve her own health and that of her infant, it is likely to have the added benefit of reducing the infant's risk for heart defects."


Lisa Leslie Gives Birth to Son

Former WNBA player Lisa Leslie gave birth to her and her husband Michael Lockwood's second child together, Michael Joseph (aka "MJ"), Tuesday (Apr 6) reports Essence. The baby came in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was measured at 21.5 inches long, according to the former Los Angeles Spark's sister Tiffany.

Lisa and Michael have another child together, their daughter Lauren Jolie, who will turn 3 in June. Congrats to the family on their new addition!


Feds Reveal Birth Defects Caused by Company in California Town

Citizens of Kettleman City have long suspected that the largest waste treatment plant west of the Mississippi that shares their zipcode is the cause of the surge of birth defects and infant deaths in their town. Finally, the truth has been revealed:

A federal investigation has found that a hazardous waste facility at the center of a birth defects controversy improperly disposed of a chemical known to cause cancer and reproductive problems.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency sent a notice of violation Thursday to Chemical Waste Management in Kettleman City. The company runs the largest hazardous waste dump in the West.

At issue is the facility's handling of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a banned transformer fluid.

Nearby residents have blamed the facility for at least 11 birth defects since 2007. Company officials have said there's no evidence linking the dump to the birth defects.

Company officials did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tips for a Smooth Birth

Keep up your strength
Staying active could give you an advantage when it comes time to deliver, says Amy Downey, RN, a labor and delivery nurse. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor, as well as speed your recovery afterward. As long as your doctor approves, you should try to do 30 minutes of activity (such as walking, swimming or prenatal yoga) on most, if not all, days of the week.

Don’t blow off birth class
Childbirth education classes teach you what to expect during labor and delivery as well as techniques for easing the pain-information that could help you make good choices and possibly even avoid a C-section. From Lamaze to the Bradley Method to HypnoBirthing, a variety of classes with unique approaches may be available in your area. So before signing up, research the options and be sure the instructor will support you in the kind of birth you want to have, says Lisa Klein, RNC-OB, LRN, MSN, CNS, a clinical nurse specialist. For example, if you want a drug-free delivery, look for a class that focuses on natural methods of pain management. If you’re interested in pain relief, find one that covers epidurals and other types of anesthesia. If you’re undecided, you may want to take two classes. You may even be able to find an “express” class that takes place over a weekend, Klein says-a great option if you and your birth partner are pressed for time.

Be open-minded
While it’s good to have an idea of the kind of birth you want, you never know how labor and delivery will go. So know your options and go with the flow. “If what you’re doing isn’t working to manage your pain or facilitate your labor, keep trying different things until you find something that does.” says Jill Janke, PhD, RN, WHNP, a professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Likewise, if you want an unmedicated delivery and you end up getting an epidural, don’t beat yourself up. Remember: It doesn’t really matter how you get there as long as you have a healthy baby in your arms at the end.

Get tuned in
Staying focused, especially when the contractions become more intense and it comes time to push, could help you handle the pain better and be more productive. “I’ve found that the ability to focus internally has a lot to do with some women’s success,” Downey says. Her advice: Minimize distractions by turning off your cell phone and computer. Instead, turn on some good music and tune into your body. In the weeks before your due date, pick out some CDs or put together a playlist of songs that will help keep you calm and centered. Just don’t forget to bring a docking station for your iPod or check to see if your birthing room will have a CD player.

Stay vertical
Research has found that women who spend labor in upright positions tend to have less pain and shorter labors, Janke says. That’s why she suggests staying out of bed as much as possible and letting gravity assist. During the first stage of labor, walking around and sitting in a Jacuzzi or on a birthing ball are great ideas. Then, when you’re ready to push, she recommends squatting, which can open up your pelvic outlet and reduce the likelihood that a forceps or vacuum extraction will be necessary. It also can protect your perineum so you’re less likely to tear. Since holding yourself in a squat position can be tiring, you can start preparing your leg muscles now by practicing it a few times a day, Klein says.

Change positions
If you want to keep labor from stalling, don’t stay in one position too long, Downey advises. Instead, keep shifting around as often as you can, or at least every 30 minutes. If you’re stuck in bed because you’re being induced with Pitocin or getting an epidural, you can still get really creative and try different things, Downey adds. Talk to your labor nurse, midwife or doula to find out your best options.

Soak it up
Sitting in a tub of warm water can help you relax and lessen the pain of your contractions. The buoyancy of the water also can make it easier for you to move around and change positions. At the very least, you should have access to a shower where you can sit on a stool and let warm water run over your breasts and abdomen, which not only feels good but can help stimulate contractions, explains Janke.

Whether you’re taking deep inhales or short, quick breaths, controlled breathing can prevent you from tensing up (which makes the pain worse) and help you make the most of each contraction. During the pushing phase, some women hold their breath, causing their face to turn purple (labor and delivery nurses actually call them “purple pushes”). This can lengthen labor by five to ten minutes, and cause both mom’s and baby’s blood pressure to spike, says Janke, who advises against purple pushes unless your doctor or nurse instructs you to do them. During your pregnancy, you should take the time to learn and practice various breathing techniques so you’re prepared when labor begins. (It’s one of the many important topics covered in birth class!) The key is to find breathing patterns that calm you down, keep you focused and give you a feeling of control.


Baby-Name Regret

It's part of the fun of a pregnancy, tossing around all those possibilities, literally giving a name to what is still a hope and an abstraction.

For some it's a process that continues after the baby is born when the name chosen in utero just doesn't seem to fit. (That happens to writers, too. Margaret Mitchell's main character was named Pansy O'Hara up until the last draft of "Gone With the Wind," when she became Scarlett.) Last year, the blogger Kelcey Kintner wrote about looking at her 1-month-old daughter and thinking:

“This baby is absolutely, definitely not a Presley.” Oh man. We gave our kid the wrong name.

But I said nothing. I just figured I would get used to it. Presley just needed to grow into her name. Or I needed to grow into it. Or something.

My husband, along with our family and friends, would call her Presley and I would just bristle in silence. Although in all fairness, you really can’t blame them because that was her name. I pretty much just called her “the baby” or sometimes tried out names like Harlow or Harper when no one was around.

Months passed.

And then one day, I ever-so-casually mention to my husband, “Hey, what do you think about us changing Presley’s name?”

At the age of eight months, Presley’s parents started calling her Summer. It took six visits to civil court but now the government calls her that too.

“She’s not a Presley” is one form of name regret. “We didn’t name her after Paris Hilton,” is another. When Amy Graff named her daughter in 2003, she had never heard of the socialite, whose sex tape did not debut online until a year later. When it did, Graff wrote last month at

My baby girl’s carefully chosen cool and unusual name seemed forever tarnished.

Hilton did little to salvage her reputation. There was the D.U.I., some time spent in jail and the nude photographs for the champagne print-ad campaign.
I tried my hardest to block this all out and stopped reading In Touch in line at the grocery store, but the countless comments by family, friends and complete strangers who were convinced that there must be some relation between my daughter and a skanky socialite led me to feel intense baby name regret.

A 2007 survey by BabyCenter found that 3 percent of parents feel such regret and would change their baby’s name if they could. (Well, technically, as Kinter showed, they can, but I suspect they mean if they could without messing up their child in the process.)

Other causes of second thoughts? Constant misspelling and mispronunciation is one. Unexpected or unintended nicknames is another. New information can change your feelings about a name — a friend named her daughter after a great-grandmother, only to learn that most of the family thought the woman had probably murdered her first husband. The girl now goes by her middle name.

And then there is the question of “copying” names — when you choose something perfect and your best friend or co-worker or sister-in-law announces they have made the same choice. As a reader asked me recently:

Does a family “own” a name just by being lucky enough to have their child first?

My husband’s family is Jewish, and it is strongly against custom to name a child after a living family member, even a cousin. Part of my negative reaction, I know, comes from suffering through years of infertility, and worrying that one of my husband’s prolific siblings would “take” the name that my husband and I had chosen years before, chosen before we even got married, chosen years before those fertile people having babies right now had even met, let alone married.

I understand family custom, but seriously, is it also taboo between friends? Is giving your child the same name as that of a friend’s child a rude thing to do? Should you have to ask a friend if it’s O.K. before naming your child with the same name as their child? What about co-workers? Is this something that should legitimately cause tension in the workplace?


Poll Found 600,000 Fathers Staying Home to Raise Their Kids

A recent poll discovered that the number of dads who quit work to look after their kids has risen 10 times in the last 10 years. About 600,000 fathers stay back at home according to the poll, compared to 60,000 just 10 years ago.

A lot of stay-at-home fathers were quizzed about their reason for this. They revealed that the very reason is that the mother earned more money.

The web survey of insurance firm Aviva revealed that the mother earned more in one in six of all the families that were surveyed. However, 18% of the parents shared childcare responsibilities equally.

Adrienne Burgess, Research Director at the Fatherhood Institute shared that men liked to spend more time at home. She said, “It just isn't the same [now], there are more women in higher education and are starting to earn quite a lot”.

About 75% of the fathers expressed that they felt lucky to be able spend so much time with their children. The fathers opined that childcare is more rewarding than going to work. But 10% revealed that running around after their sons and daughters made them feel less of a man.


Vitamins don't prevent preeclampsia in pregnant women

A government-sponsored study of more than 10,000 women failed to find that large doses of vitamins C and E cut the risk of complications from pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, scientists report today.

Preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, occurs in up to 8% of pregnancies, says Catherine Spong, a co-author of the study in The New England Journal of Medicine. A leading cause of illness and death in pregnant women and infants, preeclampsia can be cured only by delivering the baby.

"It's like most pregnancy conditions: We don't have great preventative therapies," says Spong, chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Only baby aspirin seems to help protect against preeclampsia, she says, but only in high-risk women and only by a modest 10% reduction in risk.

More than a decade ago, a British study of fewer than 300 pregnant women found that taking vitamins C and E lowered the risk of preeclampsia. But scientists have repeatedly failed to replicate that finding.

The new trial enrolled more women and began treatment earlier than any previous study. To join, women had to be pregnant for the first time and at low risk for preeclampsia. They began taking their pills between the ninth and 16th week of pregnancy and continued up to delivery.

In the end, the study "found no evidence of benefit to either the mother or the baby," says lead author James Roberts, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Pittsburgh. In fact, Roberts and his collaborators at 15 other medical schools found that women randomly assigned to take the vitamins were slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure than those assigned to take placebo pills, although the difference could have been the result of chance.

Roberts and Spong emphasized that their findings don't mean that women should stop taking prenatal vitamins.

"This has absolutely no relevance to the use of standard doses of vitamin C and E as part of prenatal vitamins," Roberts says. "These (study) doses were enormously higher, where they act as a drug rather than a vitamin."


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Parents 'spend more' quality time with children

Working parents perpetually agonize that they don't see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations.

The study, by two economists at the University of California, San Diego, analyzes a dozen surveys of how Americans say they use their time, taken at different periods from 1965 to 2007. It reports that the amount of child care time spent by parents at all income levels - and especially those with a college education - has risen "dramatically" since the mid-1990s. (The findings by the husband-and-wife economist team of Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey appear in a discussion paper presented in March at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington.)

Before 1995, mothers spent an average of about 12 hours a week attending to the needs of their children. By 2007, that number had risen to 21.2 hours a week for college-educated women and 15.9 hours for those with less education.

Although mothers still do most of the parenting, fathers also registered striking gains: to 9.6 hours a week for college-educated men, more than double the pre-1995 rate of 4.5 hours; and to 6.8 hours for other men, up from 3.7, according to an additional analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Dan Sacks, economists at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Family researchers say the news should offer relief to guilt-stricken working parents.

“Parents are feeling like they don’t have enough time with their children,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute in New York, which conducts research on the work force. “It’s a function of people working so hard, and they are worried they’re shortchanging their children. I’ve never found a group of parents who believe they are spending enough time with their kids.”

Although previous studies have shown increases in parenting time starting in the 1990s, the study by the Rameys is important because it links so many time-use surveys and also breaks the data down by age of the child and education level.

The rise in child-centered time is just one of the ways the American family is changing. Couples are typically waiting longer to get married and begin having children. Divorce rates are dropping with each generation.

And notably, children are no longer so widely viewed as essential to a happy marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans said that children were “very important” to a successful marriage, but by 2007, the number of adults who agreed with that statement had dropped to 41 percent, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

In fact, the surge in parenting time may say more about modern marriage than about modern child care practices, Dr. Stevenson said. She notes that among college-educated parents, two- to two-and-a-half hours of the increased time takes place when both parents are together. “Everybody gets in the car,” she said, “and mom and dad both cheer on the kid.”

That may reflect a rise in what Dr. Stevenson calls the “hedonic marriage,” in which couples share home and work responsibilities so they can spend more time together.

By contrast, couples from earlier generations typically had “specialized” roles that tended to keep them apart — the husband working at a job to support the family, the wife staying home to raise the children.

“We’re seeing a rise in marriages where we’re picking people we like to do activities with,” Dr. Stevenson said. “So it’s not surprising we’re going to see that some of the activities we want do together involve our children.”

So where is the extra time coming from? Women, in particular, are spending less time cooking and cleaning their homes, while men are putting in fewer hours at the office. A 2007 report in The Quarterly Journal of Economics showed that leisure time among men and women surged four to eight hours a week from 1965 to 2003.

Notably, the data in the Ramey study do not count the hours mothers and fathers spend “around” their children — at the dinner table, for example, or in solitary play. Instead, the survey tracks specific activities in which the parent is directly involved in the child’s care.

“It’s taking them to school, helping with homework, bathing them, playing catch with them in the back yard,” said a co-author of the leisure-time paper, Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “Those are the activities that have increased over the last 15 to 20 years.”

Dr. Galinsky notes that although working parents typically feel guilty for not spending more time at home, children often have a different reaction. In a landmark study published as “Ask the Children” (Harper, 2000), she asked more than 1,000 children about their “one wish” for their parents. Although parents expected their children would wish for more family time, the children wanted something different.

“Kids were more likely to wish that their parents were less tired and less stressed,” Dr. Galinsky said.


Free Webinar on Cesarean Recovery

Isa Herrera is leading an upcoming webinar on Cesarean Recovery and Scar Care in the Postpartum Period. This webinar is geared toward new moms and healthcare professionals who are looking to learn techniques to get relief from scar pain and restore the abdominal muscles after a cesarean.

Being hosted by ICAN - The International Cesarean Awareness Network - and led by Isa Herrera, MSPT, with tools taken from her new book, "Ending Female Pain: A Woman's Manual," this webinar will teach you to:

  • Understand how to locate scar adhesions and why they are important to eliminate
  • Learn mobilization and massage techniques for after cesareans
  • Restore abdominal function after cesarean with safe exercises
  • Learn the connection between Diastasis Recti, low back pain and pelvic pain
  • Learn yoga stretches for indirect scar mobilization during the post-partum period

Date: Sunday April 11, 2010

Time: 7:00 pm EST/4:00pm PST - for times in other time zones visit:

Register: Free for ICAN members, or $15 for non-members. ICEA hours/certificate available.

To register go to:

Birth Rates Rise Among Women Over 40

While birth rates in 2008 dropped among women in their teens, twenties, and thirties, the 40-to-44 age bracket saw a 4 percent increase in birth rate, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Birth rates increased for mothers over 45 as well, with the number of births among these women increasing by 4 percent in the past year. What's more, women over 40 were also more likely to be first-time mothers than in past years, the report found. "This increase is part of a general trend that we've seen over the past few decades," says Brady Hamilton, lead author on the study and researcher for the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "A rise in reproductive technology gives women more options and more women are choosing to postpone childbirth or have a second or third child later in life," he says.
This doesn't mean it's easy to conceive in mid-life, however, warns Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, author of "The Working Woman Pregnancy Book" and director of general obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
"Statistics like this encourage putting off pregnancy even more. It gives women the illusion that the biological clock doesn't really start ticking until later," she says, "but most births over 45 are from egg donors. The chance of getting pregnant without assisted reproductive therapy after age 40 is only 10 percent," she says.
"Assisted reproduction therapy and fertility treatments are feeding this trend," says Dr. Richard Paulson, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology at the University of Southern California, "but it would be hard to tell how many people are actively waiting to have children [because they can use this technology] and how many are older women wanting to have children that now can because of an increasing social acceptance of being an older mother and this technology."
"There are a variety of things about our society that push both men and women to delay childbearing -- professional achievement, becoming financially secure, what-have-you," says Paulson.
"What ART has done for women is to increase reproductive options and level the playing field a bit. That doesn't mean you should wait until 50 to be a mom, but if your life plays out in such a way that motherhood at an advanced age makes sense, it's nice to know that that option now exists."
It's important to know, however, that this option can also come at a price.
By postponing pregnancy until middle age, women are at greater risk for gestational and birth complications that can affect both mother and child, notes Greenfield.
"By the time you're in your forties, you're more likely to go into the pregnancy with medical problems such as diabetes or hypertension, which can complicate the pregnancy. You are also at higher risk for getting gestational diabetes or hypertension during your pregnancy," she says.
Risk of genetic conditions like Down syndrome increase throughout the forties as well, but the most common issue women face when they try to conceive later -- one they often aren't expecting -- is miscarriage and infertility.
ART can help battle dwindling fertility but the therapy doesn't always work and can itself complicate pregnancies because it makes women more likely to have multiple births.
"Twins confer more risks to pregnancy than any other thing we think of as high risk factors," Greenfield says, "and that's just twins, not triplets or other multiple births."
"Women's lives are complicated, and for some women it's just not feasible to have their children in their early thirties, when fertility is higher," Greenfield says.
Women are taking better care of themselves -- "Forty today doesn't look the same as 40 twenty years ago," she adds, "but that doesn't have anything to do with fertility."
Being young for your age "may affect how active you can be as a parent, but it doesn't help your fertility."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Diablo Cody announces pregnancy

"Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody has confirmed reports she's expecting her first child.

Cody, who won an Oscar for writing the 2007 comedy about a pregnant teen, has taken to her Twitter account to announce the happy news, which follows reports she had secretly married her boyfriend.

She writes, "Thanks for the congrats on my fetus. No secrets here; just thought it would be fun to see how big I could get before someone noticed."

The mom-to-be has not yet confirmed the identity of her partner, the baby's father.


The Strokes' Julian Casablancas Welcomes a Son

The Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas and wife, former manager Juliet have reportedly become first time parents. The couple, who have been married since 2005 welcomed a son named Cal in early March, and the new dad said of the addition to the family, "I don't know if it's totally sunk in yet. It's been wonderful. He's so laid back."

Casablancas, who is currently touring to support his new solo album 'Phrazes For The Young,' recently shared that he was 'mentally' prepared for the baby's arrival though his wife took care of the details, saying, "I haven't done too much. My woman has done all the hard stuff. We have clothes that people have given us. We have a crib ready... birth is a beautiful thing."


Brett Favre Becomes a Grandfather!

If Brett Favre returns for a 20th NFL season, you can call him "Grandpa" and not be making fun of his age.

Favre's 21-year-old daughter Brittany gave birth to a son Tuesday, according to multiple media reports, making the 40-year-old Minnesota Vikings quarterback a grandfather.

Favre was 19 when he and girlfriend Deanna had Brittany in 1989. The couple was married in 1996 and had another child, Breleigh, in 1999.

Favre led the Vikings to the NFC championship game last season and has not yet decided whether or not he intends to return in 2010. He will turn 41 in October.

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder first reported that Favre was about to be a grandfather. ESPN said later it had confirmed the news through Favre.


Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath is Going to be a Dad

Big congratulations to Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath, who has announced that not only is he engaged to his longtime love Carin Kingsland, but they're expecting twins!

The expectant father gushes that he's "so excited" for the birth of the babies - one girl and one boy - who were conceived via in vitro fertilization. He won't have long to wait: Carin, 37, is due next month!

"I love them already, but I need them to come out so I can really shower them with love," Mark, 42, tells People. "I can't wait to meet them."

Like many first time parents, he admits that he and Carin are also nervous about what lies ahead.

"My DNA paranoia is kicking in: I've got to feed these children. We've got to get the nursery together. And what do you do when you bring the kids home?" he asks. "Most parents are like, 'Oh, the wonders of child rearing.' But we're freaking out! The first year is going to be gnarly."

As they prepare for their new arrivals, the couple is also busy planning a wedding.

"We love the idea of getting married on 10/10/10," Mark muses. "But the twins might have another idea."


Drinking during pregnancy 'could increase epilepsy risk'

Women who drink during pregnancy could be increasing the risk of their child developing epilepsy, a study has indicated.

The research found that children who suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) - a condition caused by maternal drinking during pregnancy - were six times more likely to suffer from epilepsy as they grew older.

They were also more likely to suffer at least one seizure at some point in their lives.

Previous research has indicated a connection between drinking during pregnancy and rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and even Parkinson's and stroke.

Neuroscientists said the latest study added to growing understanding about the risks posed to unborn babies by mothers' alcohol consumption, but added that it was difficult to establish a causal link between drinking and epilepsy.

Dan Savage, Regents' Professor at the University of New Mexico's Department of Neurosciences said: "This report builds on a growing body of evidence that maternal drinking during pregnancy may put a child at greater risk for an even wider variety of neurologic and behavioral health problems than we had appreciated before.

"The consensus recommendation of scientists and clinical investigators, along with public health officials around the world, is very clear a woman should abstain from drinking during pregnancy as part of an overall program of good prenatal care that includes good nutrition, adequate exercise, sufficient rest, and proper prenatal health care."

Researchers examined the histories of 425 individuals from two FASD clinics, looking for a correlation between suspected risk factors including exposure to alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, and occurrences of epilepsy and seizures.

James Reynolds of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, who contributed to the study, said: "While this report supports a growing impression that fetal alcohol exposure may predispose the immature brain to the development of epilepsy, the results do not establish a direct cause-effect relationship between FASD and epilepsy.

"Establishing a direct link between these clinical conditions will be a difficult challenge given our incomplete understanding of how ethanol damages the developing brain and what neuropathological changes in brain tissue lead to the development of different types of epilepsy."


Monday, April 05, 2010

Better Birth Weight for Babies of Exercisers

Regular exercise during pregnancy doesn't change a mother's body weight but does lead to a small reduction in the baby's weight, a new study shows.

The findings are important because larger birth size is associated with higher risk for childhood obesity.

In a randomized trial of 84 first-time mothers, participants were assigned to either an exercise or a control group. Exercisers rode stationary bikes for 40 minutes, five days a week, while the other women just maintained their regular activity. The women began exercising in the 20th week of pregnancy and continued until at least week 36.

The exercise didn’t make any difference in the mother’s weight compared to mothers who weren’t exercising. But among mothers who didn’t exercise, their babies were an average of five ounces heavier than babies born to women who exercised during pregnancy. There also was no difference in the average length of the babies, according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study shows that moderate, regular aerobic exercise can have a meaningful effect on a baby’s birth weight without putting the pregnancy or child at risk.


Study: Breastfeeding would save lives, money

The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breastfed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

Those startling results, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are only an estimate. But several experts who reviewed the analysis said the methods and conclusions seem sound.

"The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference," said Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section.

The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breast-feeding may help prevent. These include stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and even childhood leukemia.

The magnitude of health benefits linked to breast-feeding is vastly under-appreciated, said lead author Dr. Melissa Bartick, an internist and instructor at Harvard Medical School. Breast-feeding is sometimes considered a lifestyle choice, but Bartick calls it a public health issue.

Among the benefits: Breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight infections; it also can affect insulin levels in the blood, which may make breast-fed babies less likely to develop diabetes and obesity.

The analysis studied the prevalence of 10 common childhood illnesses, costs of treating those diseases, including hospitalization, and the level of disease protection other studies have linked with breast-feeding.

The $13 billion in estimated losses due to the low breast-feeding rate includes an economists' calculation partly based on lost potential lifetime wages - $10.56 million per death.

About 43 percent of U.S. mothers do at least some breast-feeding for six months, but only 12 percent follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months.

Dr. Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician, called the analysis compelling and said it's reasonable to strive for 90 percent compliance.

But he also said mothers who don't breast-feed for six months shouldn't be blamed or made to feel guilty, because their jobs and other demands often make it impossible to do so.

"We'd all love as pediatricians to be able to carry this information into the boardrooms by saying we all gain by small changes at the workplace" that encourage breast-feeding, Gray said.

Bartick said there are some encouraging signs. The government's new health care overhaul requires large employers to provide private places for working mothers to pump breast milk. And under a provision enacted April 1 by the Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting agency, hospitals may be evaluated on their efforts to ensure that newborns are fed only breast milk before they're sent home.

The pediatrics academy says babies should be given a chance to start breast-feeding immediately after birth. Bartick said that often doesn't happen, and at many hospitals newborns are offered formula even when their mothers intend to breast-feed.

"Hospital practices need to change to be more in line with evidence-based care," Bartick said. "We really shouldn't be blaming mothers for this."


Incontinence during pregnancy ups risk of it later

A new study confirms that women who have incontinence during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have the problem after giving birth as well. The good news, researchers say, is that there are ways for women to reduce their risk.

In a study of more than 1,100 first-time mothers, Spanish researchers found that 39 percent reported urinary incontinence, or urine leakage, at some point during pregnancy. Another 10 percent said they had anal incontinence, which included uncontrolled passage of gas or stool.

These women were more likely than those without incontinence during pregnancy to have symptoms seven weeks after giving birth.

Overall, 16 percent of women in the study had urinary incontinence seven weeks after giving birth, while 7 percent had anal incontinence.

The risks for women who'd had those problems during pregnancy were three and six times greater, respectively, compared with women who had remained continent during pregnancy.

The study, reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, also confirmed that vaginal childbirth carries greater risks compared with cesarean section. Women who had a vaginal delivery were three times more likely than those who had a C-section to have urinary or anal incontinence after childbirth.

Of 692 women who had a vaginal delivery and responded to questionnaires seven weeks after childbirth, 139 reported symptoms of urinary incontinence and 57 reported anal incontinence.

They also highlight potential ways to reduce the risk.

For example, studies have tied excess weight gain to an increased risk of incontinence during pregnancy. (In this study, it was linked to anal incontinence only.) So gaining only the recommended number of pregnancy pounds may help prevent incontinence both during and after pregnancy.

In addition, exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, known as Kegel exercises, have been shown to lower the risk of pregnancy-related incontinence.

In cases where a woman already has risk factors for post-childbirth incontinence -- such as being older than 35 or having a family history of incontinence -- doctors might want to avoid using forceps or other instruments during vaginal delivery, or doing an episiotomy -- an incision made to enlarge the vaginal opening during delivery.

Past studies have linked instrument-assisted deliveries, particularly in conjunction with episiotomy, to an increased risk of incontinence.

Because the current study followed-up with women only seven weeks after they gave birth, it is unclear how many women had long-term symptoms. Past research has suggested that for most women, incontinence goes away within a few months of giving birth, though for some it may become a persistent problem.

Treatments for persistent incontinence include Kegel exercises, behavioral changes (like scheduled bathroom trips), medications and, in more severe cases, surgery.