Friday, July 02, 2010

Diego Luna and Wife Welcome a Daughter!

Mexican actor Diego Luna and wife, Camila Sodi, welcomed a baby girl into their family last Thursday.

The Y Tu Mama Tambien actor, most recently seen opposite Sean Penn in Milk, has been somewhat of an industry recluse since the birth of his son, Jeronimo, back in 2008.

Perhaps Diego is just reveling in being a family man. Diego and Camila named their new daughter Fiona, after Diego's late mother who passed away in 1982.

Congratulations to the happy parents!


Whales and humans linked by 'helpful grandmothers'

Scientists have discovered an evolutionary reason why humans and whales both have grandmothers.

As post-menopausal females age, the researchers say, they become increasingly interested and helpful in rearing their "grandchildren".

This could help explain why female great apes and toothed whales (cetaceans) have lifespans that extend long beyond their reproductive years.

They report the findings in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

The "grandmother hypothesis" was first proposed in the 1950s. It stated that menopause, which stops a female's fertility well before the end of her lifespan, may have evolved to benefit a social group, because grandmothers went on to play such an important a role in caring for offspring that were already born.

Dr Michael Cant, from the University of Exeter in the UK, was one of the authors of this paper.

He explained that he and his colleague, Rufus Johnstone, looked at how humans and whales balanced "the costs and benefits of breeding with the costs and benefits of switching off breeding".

Dr Johnstone, who is an evolutionary biologist based at the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: "It's easy to forget about the cetaceans, but since they're the only other mammal apart from us [where females] have a comparable post-reproductive lifespan, it's important to study them in this context."

Previous studies have suggested that female chimpanzees and gorillas also go through menopause, but the conclusions are controversial.

The two scientists developed a mathematical model to study "kinship dynamics" in killer whales (orcas), short-finned pilot whales and humans.

This revealed that, as post-menopausal females aged, they developed closer ties to infants.

This showed, the scientists said, an "underlying similarity" between whales and great apes that might otherwise have been masked by the big differences in their social structures.

"Our analysis can help explain why, of all long-lived social mammals, it is specifically among great apes and toothed whales that menopause and post-reproductive helping have evolved," the researchers wrote in the paper.


Zac Hanson and Wife Expecting Second Child

Another baby is on the way for Zac Hanson!

The pop rocker, 24, and his wife Kate are expecting their second child, he revealed Thursday on nationally-syndicated radio show Kidd Kraddick in the Morning.

"I have a new new baby. It's coming," he said. "Nobody even knows."

Zac and his wife, who wed in 2006, welcomed their first son, John, in 2008.


Childlessness Is Up, But Not Among Highly Educated Women

A recently published PEW Research Report finds that while childlessness is still on the rise, only women with advanced degrees defy this trend.

Compared to a decade ago, women with master's degrees or more are increasingly choosing to have children. This reversal is most pronounced among women holding PhDs, who are 32% more likely to choose to have kids than a decade ago.

This counter-intuitive finding begs the question: Why are the most educated women reversing the childless trend when historically women with more education have less or no children? And what has changed for these women since the 90’s to make having kids an appealing option once more?

One theory is that companies are taking efforts to retain top female talent. With increased company support and flexibility, women are able to free up the time necessary to start a family.

Another theory is that women who pursue advanced degrees are increasingly opting out of the corporate “rat race” in favor of careers that will offer them more work/life balance. Most revealing of this is the fact that among women holding advanced degrees, those with MBAs are much more likely than lawyers and doctors to drop out of the workforce entirely once they become mothers.

Conversely, the biggest increase in childlessness over the past decade was among women with the least amount of education (high school or less). Due in large part to the jobs available to them, they are increasingly squeezed both for time and money. When finances and time are the two biggest factors one considers before deciding to have children, their predicament is not conducive to raising families.

Bottom line: As the rate of childlessness equalizes the decision to have or not have children becomes more of a voluntary one. For the most educated women, this is an encouraging sign that we’re moving towards a world in which women no longer have to choose between work and family.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this is a sign that women are increasingly exercising their right to choose the circumstances under which they have children. Either way you look at it this is a positive indicator of progress in female empowerment, education and employment.


Becki Newton Expecting First Child!

Ugly Betty star Becki Newton and her husband Chris Diamantopoulos are expecting their first child, EW reports.

The happy news is causing quite a stir on her new sitcom, Love Bites. "She plays a virgin [in the pilot episode], so we have to make adjustments to that," Vernon Sanders of NBC tells USA Today.

Congrats to the Newton-Diamantopoulos family!


Exposure to passive smoking during pregnancy 'increase children's risk of cancer in later life'

Pregnant women subjected to passive smoking give birth to babies with an increased, lifelong susceptibility to cancer, research reveals.

Passive smoking causes the same type of genetic damage in unborn infants as that found in adult smokers with cancerous tumors.

Researchers said the abnormalities in newborns were indistinguishable from those found in babies of mothers who were active smokers.

And they may affect survival, birth weight and lifelong susceptibility to diseases like cancer, according to the study published online in the Open Paediatric Medicine Journal.

Dr Stephen Grant and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. found a smoke-induced mutation in an oncogene, a gene which transforms normal cells into cancerous tumors.

The mutation was the same level and type in newborns of mothers who were active smokers as those in babies born to non-smoking mothers exposed to tobacco smoke.

The mutations were also discernible in newborns of women who had stopped smoking during their pregnancies, but who did not actively avoid second-hand smoke.

The study confirms previous research in which Dr Grant discovered evidence of genetic abnormalities in babies whose mothers were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

There is also evidence that maternal exposure to passive smoke, as well as a history of paternal cigarette smoke exposure, is linked with an increased risk of childhood cancer, especially leukaemias and lymphomas in children under five.

Dr Grant said: 'These findings back up our previous conclusion that passive, or secondary, smoke causes permanent genetic damage in newborns that is very similar to the damage caused by active smoking.

'By using a different laboratory test, we were able to pick up a completely distinct yet equally important type of genetic mutation that is likely to persist throughout a child's lifetime.

'Pregnant women should not only stop smoking, but be aware of their exposure to tobacco smoke from other family members, work and social situations.'


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Rachel Dratch Is Pregnant!

A friend of was trolling the red carpet last night at a New York screening of The Kids Are All Right when he spotted a baby bump! And it wasn't the one on Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler - it was the one on her friend and fellow SNL alum Rachel Dratch! Rubin congratulated a slightly flustered Dratch, who hasn't shared the news publicly but who got up to pose in front of the cameras with Poehler, bump to bump!


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Home birth risks under scrutiny

Women who plan home births recover more rapidly from childbirth, but there is a higher risk of their child dying, an international study suggests.

US analysis of more than 500,000 births in North America and Europe found death rates for babies in planned home births were double that of those in planned hospital births.

But the risk was still low, at 0.2%.

UK doctors said the evidence needed to be taken into account, but a midwives' body questioned its relevance.

The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, examined studies on the relative safety of planned home and hospital births from around the world.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 350,000 planned home births and more than 200,000 planned hospital deliveries.

Crucially, it looked at where the woman had planned to give birth, rather than the actual birthplace.

The researchers argued that the safety of home births may have previously been overplayed by the fact that when there are complications and a woman is rushed to hospital, any adverse outcome is recorded as a hospital birth.

Rates of home birth vary across the developed world. In the Netherlands a third of women deliver at home, while in the US around one in 200 women do so.

The researchers described their findings of a doubling of the risk of neonatal mortality among those planning home birth as "striking", because it is often those with the lowest risk of complications who do not need to deliver in hospital. When researchers took out babies with congenital abnormalities, the risk was threefold.

When deaths occurred among the home birth group, they were overwhelmingly attributed to respiratory problems during birth and failed attempts at resuscitation.

Overall these problems have been decreasing in recent decades, which is thought to be down to greater medical intervention, including more liberal use of ultrasound, electronic fetal heart monitoring, the induction of labor and cesarean delivery.

But the lack of medical intervention may explain why the mothers who planned a home birth tended to end up with fewer tears or lacerations, fewer cases of postpartum haemorrhage and fewer infections.

But the researchers suggested these benefits did come at a cost.

"Women choosing home birth, particularly low-risk individuals who had given birth previously, are in large part successful in achieving their goal of delivering with less morbidity and medical intervention than experienced during hospital-based childbirth," said lead author Dr Joseph Wax from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Maine Medical Center.

"Of significant concern, these apparent benefits are associated with a doubling of the neonatal mortality rate overall and a near tripling among infants born without congenital defects."


Preterm Births Rarely Discussed With Doctors

Even though one in eight babies in the United States are born preterm each year, most new or expectant mothers and their doctors don't discuss preterm birth, a new survey shows.

Conducted by the March of Dimes and BabyCenter, the poll included more than 1,000 participants, including new or expectant mothers, mothers who've experienced preterm birth and their obstetricians/gynecologists.

Despite the fact that prior preterm birth is a major risk factor for delivering another baby prematurely, nearly 40 percent of women who had a previous preterm delivery were not informed of this by their doctors.

"If you've had a preterm birth, talk to your doctor because the greatest risk factor for having a preterm baby is if you've already had had one," said Dr. Alan Fleischman, March of Dimes medical director. "Our survey found that a lot of moms don't feel informed about preterm birth's risk factors and potential consequences."

"Early prenatal care, including reviewing medical history and lifestyle habits, is an opportunity to give babies a better chance of a healthy, full-term birth," said Fleischman. "Therefore, having that conversation about preterm birth should take place early enough so the mom-to-be can address any modifiable risk factors, and treat any health conditions that may put her or her baby at increased risk."

The survey also found that more than two-thirds of new and expectant mothers did not know the correct definition of preterm birth (less than 37 weeks of completed weeks of gestation), and one-third weren't able to pinpoint risk factors associated with preterm birth.

Among the other findings:

  • Only 15 percent of mothers who had experienced preterm birth discussed preterm delivery with their doctor before the second trimester, and nearly 40 percent didn't know they were at risk for a subsequent preterm birth.
  • Less than half of new or expectant mothers said they felt very informed about symptoms of preterm labor, and even fewer felt very informed about lifelong consequences.
  • Among obstetricians/gynecologists, most cited the lack of preterm birth prevention options as a challenge in broaching the topic of preterm delivery with patients, and more than half cited concern about causing undue fear or worry.

Learn more about premature labor here.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Breastfeeding 'Creepy'?

To breastfeed or not was touchy territory before Kathryn Blundell stepped into it. That is why she stepped in, to represent the side not heard from often: the group that decides not to even try to feed their newborn from anything but a bottle.

Already on explosive ground, she lit the match by using the adjective "creepy" to describe breastfeeding. And she did so in the July issue of the widely read British magazine Mother & Baby, of which she is the deputy editor.

Under the headline "I formula fed. So what?" she wrote:

I wanted my body back. (And some wine)… I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach… They’re part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy.

She acknowledged studies that have found health benefits to mother and child from breast feeding, but said “even the convenience and supposed health benefits of breast milk couldn’t induce me to stick my nipple in a bawling baby’s mouth.” She continued:

I don’t think I’m the only one, either – only 52 percent of mums still breastfeed after six weeks. Ask most of the quitters why they stopped and you’ll hear tales of agonizing three-hour feeding sessions and – the drama! – bloody nipples. But I often wonder whether many of these women, like me, just couldn’t be fagged or felt like getting tipsy once in a while.

(Translation: fagged is the Britishism for exhausted.)

The parenting blogosphere on both sides of the Atlantic (and all the way down to Australia) lit up when the piece was published last week. Critics were furious that a woman whose job it was to give advice to mothers was steering them wrong, and for what were seen as trivial reasons. Supporters praised her for saying what other mothers often think (how often, no one knows) but rarely say out loud.

Today Blundell responded. On the magazine’s Web site she wrote:

My motivation behind writing this feature was to give a voice to those many women who simply do not want to breastfeed, and as a result of this choice have felt guilty, alienated and distressed.

I also wrote with humor as I wanted to take a more relaxed approach to the topic, in a climate where unfortunately the type of milk a woman feeds her baby seems so open to serious judgment and criticism.

Having a baby leaves a mum in a very vulnerable position and I feel it’s important for all mums to feel confident and comfortable with themselves in order to do what’s best for their baby.

If that choice is to breastfeed, then of course this is really fantastic, as it is certainly the best food for a baby – as I stated in my feature. But, as I also made clear in my feature, breastfeeding just wasn’t for me, and I was happy to take the formula route.

As a supporter of all mums and mums-to-be, Mother & Baby magazine continues to promote breastfeeding as the norm and offers support and advice on feeding – which is just one part of successful parenting.


Pregnant drinking 'affects sperm' of unborn sons

Women who drink during pregnancy may be damaging the future fertility of their sons, research suggests.

In a study of almost 350 young men, sperm levels were a third lower in those whose mothers had drunk more than four drinks a week during pregnancy compared with teetotallers.

The Danish researchers told a fertility conference these men may have a harder time getting their partner pregnant.

UK experts said alcohol may not be the issue, but a marker for other factors.

Current advice is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy, but those who do so are advised to have no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

The study included men, now aged between 18 and 21, whose mothers had taken part in a large study on lifestyle while they were pregnant with them.

Researchers told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference that they split the men into four groups - those whose mothers drank nothing, those who had one to one and a half drinks a week, two to four drinks a week, or more than four drinks a week.

One drink was classed as a beer, small glass of wine or one measure of spirits.

Four drinks in the study is equivalent to around six UK units.

When they looked at sperm counts in the men's semen samples, they found those with the highest alcohol exposure in the womb had average concentrations of 25 million per millilitre compared with 40 million/ml in those whose mothers drank no alcohol.

After adjusting for factors which might influence sperm, such as smoking and medical history, they calculated that average sperm concentration was 32% lower in the highest alcohol group than the abstinence group.

The World Health Organization says that a normal range of sperm is 20 to 40 million/ml.


Monday, June 28, 2010

8 Countries With Fascinating Baby Naming Laws

Here in the U.S., you can name your kid almost anything, but that's not the case everywhere in the world. Let's take a look at some countries with pretty strict or otherwise fascinating baby-naming laws.

  1. Norway

    First names, but not middle names, are governed by Norwegian law. There is an official government list of all allowed names. Last names can not be used as first names, and foreign names that are religious in nature, such as Jesús, or that are insulting won’t make the cut. Unconventional spellings are not preferred. Last names also adhere to certain rules. If you want to change your last name, you have to show that you are very close to someone else with that last name, such as when you take your spouse’s last name or your mother’s maiden name. But much distance past that is rejected. Last names that are shared by 500 or fewer people are actually protected. You have to get the permission of all of the people with that last name if you want to adopt it as your own.

    Rejected names: “Gesher” was rejected as a boy’s first name to the point where the child’s mother was jailed for refusing to pay the $420 fine.

  2. Germany

    In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. Also, you can not use last names or the names of objects or products as first names. Whether or not your chosen name will be accepted is up to the office of vital statistics, the Standesamt, in the area in which the child was born. If the office rejects your proposed baby name, you may appeal the decision. But if you lose, you’ll have to think of a different name. Each time you submit a name you pay a fee, so it can get costly. When evaluating names, the Standesamt refers to a book which translates to “the international manual of the first names,” and they also consult foreign embassies for assistance with non-German names. Because of the hassle parents have to go through to name their children, many opt for traditional names such as Maximilian, Alexander, Marie, and Sophie.

    Rejected names: Matti was rejected for a boy because it didn’t indicate gender. Approved names: Legolas and Nemo were approved for baby boys.

  3. Japan

    In Japan, one given name and one surname are chosen for babies, except for the imperial family, who only receive given names. Except for a few examples, it is obvious which are the given names and which are the surnames, regardless of in what order the names have been given. There are a couple thousand “name kanji” and “commonly used characters” for use in naming babies, and only these official kanji may be used in babies’ given names. The purpose of this is to make sure that all names can be easily read and written by the Japanese. The Japanese also restrict names that might be deemed inappropriate.

    Rejected names: Akuma, meaning “devil.”

  4. Sweden

    Enacted in 1982, the Naming law in Sweden was originally created to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names, but a few changes to the law have been made since then. The part of the law referencing first names reads: “First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name.” If you later change your name, you must keep at least one of the names that you were originally given, and you can only change your name once.

    Rejected names: “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116″ (pronounced Albin, naturally) was submitted by a child’s parents in protest of the Naming law. It was rejected. The parents later submitted “A” (also pronounced Albin) as the child’s name. It, too, was rejected.

    Also rejected: Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea, and Elvis.

    Accepted names: Google as a middle name, Lego.

  5. Denmark

    Denmark’s very strict Law on Personal Names is in place to protect children from having odd names that suit their parents’ fancy. To do this, parents can choose from a list of only 7,000 pre-approved names, some for girls, some for boys. If you want to name your child something that isn’t on the list, you have to get special permission from your local church, and the name is then reviewed by governmental officials. Creative spellings of more common names are often rejected. The law states that girls and boys must have names that indicate their gender, you can’t use a last name as a first name, and unusual names may be rejected. Of the approximately 1,100 names that are reviewed each year, 15-20% of the names are rejected. There are also laws in place to protect rare Danish last names.

    Rejected names: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey.

    Approved names: Benji, Jiminico, Molli, and Fee.

  6. Iceland

    The Iceland Naming Committee, formed in 1991, is the group that decides whether a new given name will be acceptable. If parents want to name their child something that is not included on the National Register of Persons, they can apply for approval and pay a fee. A name has to pass a few tests to be approved. It must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet, and must fit grammatically with the language. Other considerations include whether it will embarrass the child in the future and how well aligned it is with Icelandic traditions. It must have a genitive ending or have been previously adopted. Also, names should be gender specific, and no one can have more than three personal names.

    Surnames in Iceland usually follow an interesting tradition. They are not family names, but are rather patronymic, or occasionally matronymic, with part of a person’s last name including their father’s name. If a father’s name is Eric, then his son’s surname would be Ericsson (or Eric’s son), and his daughter’s surname would be Ericsdóttir (or Eric’s daughter). Occasionally, there are true family names in Iceland, that are passed down to each generation. But they are usually in families originally from other countries, or in families where a family name was adopted at one point.

  7. New Zealand

    New Zealand’s Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 doesn’t allow people to name their children anything that “might cause offence to a reasonable person; or [...] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, [...] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank.” Officials at the registrar of births have successfully talked parents out of some more embarrassing names.

    Rejected names: Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, Sex Fruit, Satan, and Adolf Hitler

    Approved names: Benson and Hedges (for a set of twins), Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter, Violence

  8. China

    Most new babies in China are now basically required to be named based on the ability of computer scanners to read those names on national identification cards. The government recommends giving children names that are easily readable, and encourages Simplified characters over Traditional Chinese ones. Parents can technically choose the given name, but numbers and non-Chinese symbols and characters are not allowed. Also, now, Chinese characters that can not be represented on the computer are not allowed. There are over 70,000 Chinese characters, but only about 13,000 can be represented on the computer. Because this requirement is a new one, some citizens are having their name misrepresented, and some have to change their names to be accurately shown on the identification cards.

    Rejected names: “@”: Wang “At” was rejected as a baby name. The parents felt that the @ symbol had the right meaning for them. @ in Chinese is pronounced “ai-ta” which is very similar to a phrase that means “love him.”


Combo shot boosts kids' fever-related seizure risk

Children who get a combination of measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox vaccines in one shot are at a slightly increased risk of getting a fever-related seizure, compared with children getting two separate shots - one containing measles, mumps and rubella and the another containing the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

"The risk of a febrile seizure after any measles-containing vaccine is low - about one febrile seizure in 1,000 doses" says lead study author, Dr. Nicola Klein, co-director of Kaiser Permanente's Vaccine Study Center. "But if a child gets the combination vaccine, the risk doubles," says Klein.

Researchers looked at vaccine-safety data from more than 459,000 toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months and found there was one additional case of febrile seizure for every 2,300 doses of MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine given. The seizures occurred seven to 10 days after the injection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a febrile seizure is a fever-related seizure, which can occur when a child has a fever at or above 102°F or when a high fever is going down.

"Febrile seizures are benign," Klein says, meaning they're generally not dangerous. "They are very frightening to parents, but do not lead to long-term seizures or epilepsy." The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: "While febrile seizures may be very scary, they are harmless to the child. Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage, nervous system problems, paralysis, mental retardation, or death."

Febrile seizures can occur in children ages 6 months to 5 years, but are most common in toddlers ages 12 months to 18 months, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Klein says up to 5 percent of children will have a febrile seizure between 6 months and 5 years, but that they are more likely to be caused by a common cold or other infections.

This combination vaccine was first approved in 2005. "The benefit of the MMRV is ease of administration," says Dr. William Schaffner, chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University and a liaison to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the CDC's vaccine advisory board.

It was that ease – a single shot for four vaccines, which led the ACIP to recommend a preference for this new vaccine back in 2006, says Schaffner.

Klein presented early research to the ACIP in 2008 suggesting an increased risk of seizures. This led to the CDC to change its recommendation last year from preferring the combination vaccine to having no preference. This means MMRV or the MMR plus chickenpox vaccine may be given for the first dose for children 12-23 months.

This new study confirms Klein's earlier research. This "final result is exactly what we expected," says Schaffner. "This study provides a basis for every pediatrician."

"The ACIP has quite clearly said both [MMRV and MMR plus chickenpox separately] are good – both provide protection." But Schaffner says if there is any doubt for the parents or pediatrician, "two [vaccinations] is the way to go."

Klein says the benefit of the MMRV is "one less injection for children." Her study concludes that pediatricians who choose to use this combination vaccine need to be aware of the risks, albeit small, and clearly communicate them to parents. If parents choose to go with separate vaccinations, their child will get the MMR vaccine in one arm and the chickenpox vaccine in the other arm.

Although the MMRV has been available for five years now, usage of this combination vaccine dropped significantly after the manufacturer, Merck, announced it would be unavailable after July 2007 because of a shortage of the chickenpox vaccine.

According to the CDC, Merck was taking orders for the MMRV vaccine starting on May 10 of this year and according to the manufacturer, the vaccine is now available again.

The updated package insert for the MMRV vaccine say it "is associated with higher rates of fever and febrile seizures at 5 to 12 days after vaccination," compared with children who got the MMR and chickenpox shots separately.