Friday, July 23, 2010

Cord Blood Stem Cells Treat Spinal Cord Injury in Animal Study

A study published this month in the journal Spine, found that stem cells from a human newborn umbilical cord can improve neurologic function of rats after an acute spinal cord injury.

The rats treated in the study with cord blood stem cells experienced a significantly improved recovery of locomotor function (the ability to move from place to place) over a six week period compared to untreated rats. In addition, six weeks after treatment, the injured area was noticeably smaller in the treated animals than in the untreated animals.

Most spinal cord injuries are compression injuries, in which the damaged nerve cells in the spinal cord are still intact, but have lost a coating called myelin that helps them transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body, leaving them nonfunctional. Lost myelin does not regularly grow back on its own following an injury, and so the goal of this study was to determine if cord blood stem cells could help initiate its regeneration in rats with compression injuries to the spinal cord.

Research to date has shown increasing evidence that stem cells from cord blood have the ability to help with repairing and regenerating other cells in the body by helping to regulate inflammation, assisting with the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and promoting cellular growth by secreting proteins and other growth factors.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that supports the therapeutic use of cord blood stem cells for nerve repair.

Source

New guidelines say vaginal birth OK after c-section

Even if they aren't staffed to handle emergency cesarean sections, hospitals should respect a woman's informed choice to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), new guidelines say.

VBAC is known to increase the risk that the scar left in the womb from a previous cesarean will tear during labor, leading to massive bleeding that can threaten the baby's life. That has led to previous guidelines urging caution for women who have had cesarean sections.

But recent research shows so-called uterine rupture occurs in less than one percent of women who opt for vaginal birth, and that between 60 and 80 percent of VBACs are completed successfully.

While the new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) still say a full surgical team should be present in case an emergency cesarean is required, they now put a bigger emphasis on the woman's decision.

"Respect for patient autonomy supports that patients should be allowed to accept increased levels of risk; however, patients should be clearly informed of such potential increase in risk and management alternatives," they say.

"For most women with a previous cesarean delivery, a trial of labor is a safe and appropriate option," said Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker, referring to a planned VBAC attempt.

Ecker, who directs maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, co-wrote the new guidelines, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Even women who've had two prior cesareans might be good candidates for vaginal birth, he said.

He added that he hoped the new recommendations would help reduce the concerns about medical liability that many doctors have held out as a reason for not offering VBAC.

Today, about nine in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. end up with a repeat cesarean if they've already had one. By comparison about a third of all women who give birth have cesareans.

"I really think the cesarean rates are going up too fast," said Dr. Peter Bernstein, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. "There is no good evidence that newborns are better off now than they were 20 years ago."

Bernstein, who is an ACOG fellow but did not work on the guidelines, said he was pleased with the new recommendations.

He said they updated information on what women would be good candidates for VBAC and were important in the discussion of delivery options that a woman should have with her doctor.

But he said it was hard to say if the guidelines would have any impact on the low VBAC rates.

Indeed, the guidelines note that health providers who feel uncomfortable with the delivery choice a woman has made may want to refer her to another provider.

Source

Most Obese Woman to Have Given Birth: 532 lbs

A 600-pound New Jersey woman has been declared the "Fattest Woman to Have Given Birth" by Guinness World Records.

Donna Simpson, who gave birth in Akron, Ohio, 3 years ago when she weighed 532 pounds, said she will be officially named the record holder during a September ceremony in New York, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Tuesday.

Simpson said she has since grown to 600 pounds and dreams of reaching 1,000 pounds.

"There's a whole underground world of people who want to gain weight," Simpson said. "People don't know about it too much. But there's like a lot of women who are like 135 pounds and secretly want to be 400 pounds. But I'm a little extreme."

Simpson said thousands of people pay $15 a month to view photos and videos of her performing housework and eating in various states of undress down to her bra and panties.

"Sometimes I'm fully clothed," she said. "I'm never nude. If you can put that in there, I'd appreciate that."

Source

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Meet the UK's Most Premature Baby to Survive

Amelia Hope Burden was born before the 24-week legal limit for abortion when her mother was just 23 weeks and two days pregnant, the Daily Mail reported.

She was born weighing only 1lb 2oz ten days before her brother Arthur arrived at 1lb 4oz.

He was born in July after Amanda Staplehurst had been pregnant for 24 weeks.

She went to hospital complaining of stomach cramps only to be told that she was in labor.

Amelia Hope showed little sign of life but doctors were able to revive her.

Under law they are not obliged to do so unless they feel it is in the child’s best interest.

Miss Staplehurst, 30, from Bournemouth, told the Daily Mail: “Doctors said she had just a 10 per cent of chance of survival and we never thought she’d pull through.

“Then having delivered Amelia Hope, it was totally bizarre that for ten days I remained pregnant with Arthur. The doctors have told us they’ve never come across a case like it.”

The babies are being kept in incubators but are putting on weight and said to be developing well.

The twins’ survival will give weight to the campaign to have the abortion limit lowered.

Some campaigners would like to see it reduced to 20 weeks.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, voted for a cut earlier this year and has said that an upper limit of 20 or 22 weeks would be “sensible”.

The previous British record for surviving premature twins was 24 weeks, the paper reported.

Source

Preterm Births Higher Among Overweight and Obese Mothers

Overweight and obese women are at greater risk of giving birth to a preterm baby compared with normal weight women, finds a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

The authors believe that overweight and obese women should have counseling before pregnancy so that they are aware of these risks and can try to modify their weight before pregnancy. They also stress the need for appropriate surveillance by health professionals during pregnancy.

Overweight and obesity is now the most common pregnancy complication in many developed countries and also some developing countries. For example, in the United Kingdom, 33% of pregnant women are overweight or obese. In India, 26% of pregnant women are overweight and a further 8% are obese, while in China, 16% are overweight or obese.

Preterm birth and low birth weight are the leading causes of infant death and illness throughout childhood. However, there is still uncertainty about the impact of a mother's weight on both preterm birth and low birth weight.

So a team of researchers in Canada analyzed the results of 84 studies to assess the effect of maternal weight on preterm birth (before 37 weeks) and low birth weight (below 2500g) in singleton pregnancies in both developed and developing countries.

They found that the overall risk of preterm birth before 37 weeks was not significantly different among overweight or obese women compared with normal weight women.

However, there was a 30% increased risk of induced preterm birth before 37 weeks among overweight or obese women after accounting for publication bias, which is the tendency for studies to be published only if their results are positive. The heavier the woman, the higher the risk of induced preterm birth before 37 weeks, with very obese women at 70% greater risk than normal weight women.

Overweight or obese women also had a higher risk of early preterm birth (before 32 or 33 weeks). Again, the heavier the woman, the higher the risk of early preterm birth, with very obese women at 82% greater risk than normal weight women.

Although overweight or obese women had a lower risk of delivering a low birth weight baby than normal weight women, especially in developing countries, this effect disappeared after publication bias was taken into account. "Clinicians need to be aware that maternal overweight or obesity is not protective against low birth weight and consider surveillance when indicated," warn the authors.

"Ideally, overweight or obese women should have pregnancy counseling so that they are informed of their perinatal risks and can try to optimize their weight before pregnancy," they conclude.

Source

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Christina Applegate Is Pregnant!

Christina Applegate is going to be a mother.

The actress, 38, and her fiance, musician Martyn Lenoble, are expecting their first child, her rep tells USMagazine.

Applegate and Lenoble, 41, got engaged this past Valentine's Day after two years of dating. (They have not revealed a wedding date. This will be the second marriage for both.)

Applegate has credited Lenoble, a founding member of 90s alternative rock band Porno for Pyros, with helping her overcome her battle with breast cancer. After her 2008 diagnosis, she underwent a double mastectomy, then reconstructive surgery.

"I have a small but mighty support system and Martyn has really been an incredible part of my life," Applegate previously told Us. "Without him, I don't know if I could've gone through any of it. He came around at a time when there was a lot of loss in my life on many levels, so he's been a really incredible help."

She also told Us she wants to have children. When asked what's on her bucket list, she told Us last year: "Babies, lots of babies. Not lots of babies, but a couple."

Source

This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Rachel Dratch bumps it up in black and white, Doutzen Kroes is barely showing in red, and Becki Newton covers her bump with a black scarf.

Source Source

Black Parents Shocked to Give Birth to White Baby Girl

A black couple living in the U.K. were shocked by the birth of a blond haired, blue-eyed girl.

Ben Ihegboro must have briefly questioned his wife Angela's fidelity after the birth of Nmachi, and he conceded: "We both just sat there after the birth staring at her".

As there is no known mixed-race background in either of the parents' families, geneticists are baffled by the newborn's surprise appearance.

Nmachi is the couple's third child, with Dumebi, 2, and Chisom, 4, each bearing a strong resemblance to their parents. Doctors rejected the possibility of the baby being albino. The real cause is unknown, with the only explanation being a "genetic quirk."

Professor Bryan Sykes, head of human genetics at Oxford University, described the birth as "extraordinary," telling The Sun that for the baby to be completely white, both Ben and Angela would need to have "some form of white ancestry.'" The explanation for this lies in that mixed-race women carry some eggs containing genes for white skin and others for black; similarly men carry the same range of genes in their sperm.

Professor Sykes commented: "The hair is extremely unusual. Even many blond children don't have blond hair like this at birth."

Ben said that his son Chisom "keeps coming to look at his sister and then sits down looking puzzled."

Source

Probiotic Milk During Pregnancy Stops Baby Eczema

Researchers say women who drink probiotic milk during and after pregnancy could reduce the chances their baby will develop eczema. Babies of women who drank probiotic milk beginning at week 36, and then during breast-feeding, were found to have almost half the incidence of eczema compared to babies whose mothers were given placebo milk.

The findings are part of a bigger project from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) called the Prevention of Allergy Among Children in Trondheim, or PACT, focused on childhood allergies that have been on the rise.

The researchers are also trying to find out if probiotic milk during pregnancy and breast-feeding could reduce the asthma in children but the study failed to find any benefit up to age 2.

Christian Kvikne Dotterud, a student in the Medical Student Research Programme at the Department of Community Medicine at NTNU explains, “The results showed that probiotic bacteria reduced the incidence of eczema in children up to age two years by 40 percent. And the kids in ‘probiotics group’, who did have eczema, had less severe cases.”

Past studies have shown that children who consume probiotics have fewer allergies. “Our study is the first to show that certain probiotic bacteria given to the mother during pregnancy and breast-feeding prevents eczema,” says Dotterud.

Included in the study were 415 pregnant women and their children who the Norwegian scientists followed until age 2. The researchers note the probiotics given to mothers during and after pregnancy were responsible for the 40 percent reduction in eczema seen in the children. Neither the mothers nor the researchers knew who was receiving probiotic milk and who was given placebo milk.

There has been some skepticism about giving probiotics to infants, leading the researchers to give it to the mothers instead. All of the women planned to breastfeed. The scientists say they believe probiotics have a "positive" effect on breast milk.

The type of bacteria added to the pregnant mothers’ milk was the Norwegian product Biola from Tine SA that contains LGG ®, Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-5) and Bifidobacterium lactis (Bb-12). Of the three probiotic types LGG ® is the most widely used on the market and the most studied for its health benefits. The study suggests the benefits of probiotics likely come from consuming a variety of strains, even those that have been less extensively studied.

The scientists plan to screen the children at age 6 to find out if probiotic milk consumed during pregnancy followed by breast-feeding reduces asthma as well as eczema. The study is part of an impetus to find interventions that can reduce allergies in children.

The current findings show that mothers of babies given probiotic milk during and after pregnancy reduced the incidence of eczema in their babies by 40 percent. The mothers drank one glass of probiotic milk a day during pregnancy and breast-feeding to reduce the chances of eczema in their babies.

Source

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mother's heartbeat 'synchronizes with fetus'

The heartbeats of a mother and her unborn fetus synchronize when she breathes rhythmically, researchers have said.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen claim the connection paves the way for a new technique to detect development problems during pregnancy.

They said if this synchronization did not happen it could signal something might be wrong.

This, the researchers suggest, could allow early medical intervention.

Dr Marco Thiel, one of a team of physicists from the University of Aberdeen who worked on the study, said: "Pregnant mothers often report an awareness of a bond with their child. The fetus can sense the rhythmical shift in the mother's heartbeat and adapts its own heartbeat accordingly”

"But until now there has been no hard evidence to suggest this bond is reflected in the interaction of their heartbeats.

"Our findings reveal that synchronization between the heartbeat of a mother and fetus does actually occur - but only when the mother is breathing in a rhythmical fashion.

"The fetus can sense the rhythmical shift in the mother's heartbeat and adapts its own heartbeat accordingly."

Dr Thiel added: "Importantly, the phenomenon does not occur when a mother is breathing normally.

"Although our studies showed that synchronization between the fetus and mother's heartbeat might occur under normal conditions, this can be coincidental and not because of an actual physiological connection."

Source

New Research on Maternity Leaves and Child Development

How important is the length of a maternity leave on a child's development? That's one of the questions that Michael Baker has been trying to answer in his research.

Prof. Baker, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Toronto, has studied how changes in maternity-leave lengths affect things like breastfeeding and children's well-being.

To study some of these questions, Prof. Baker, along with Kevin Milligan, a professor at the University of British Columbia, looked at the effects of a change in Canada’s generous maternity leave law. Back in 2000, government-subsidized maternity leaves were increased from six months to one year in Canada. Not all moms took advantage of the year-long leaves; for mothers covered by the changes, the average amount of time on leave went up from six months to nine months. During these increased leaves, though, children were more likely to be with their mothers, rather than the most common child-care alternative: unlicensed home-based care provided by nonrelatives (i.e. using nannies or small day-care centers operated out of a home.)

Some mixed news for working moms feeling guilty that they didn’t spend more time on leave: The researchers found that when these Canadian moms increased their maternity leaves it had very little effect on child development when assessed at ages two and five—things like measures of temperament and motor and social development. One possible explanation for the data, Prof. Baker said, was that perhaps the more important impact of maternal care on cognitive development occurred in the first six months of life, so leaves longer than six months may not make much of a difference.

One of the most important factors affecting child development, said Prof. Baker, was the quality of the child care the children would receive once moms returned to work.

One thing that the maternity-leave changes did affect was breastfeeding. The maternity-leave changes, not surprisingly, helped prolong breastfeeding. (It’s much easier for many women to nurse directly than to pump in the office.) The proportion of mothers who exclusively breastfed their children at least six months increased by nearly 40%. Mothers increased the period they nursed their children by a little more than a month, and they increased the time they exclusively breastfed their children by about a half month.

Source

Need a Mortgage? Don't Get Pregnant

Expectant parents shopping for a home are not the only ones concerned about the date of the baby's arrival.

Mortgage lenders are taking a harder look at prospective borrowers whose income has temporarily fallen while they are on leave, including new parents at home taking care of a baby. Even if a parent plans on returning to work within weeks, some lenders are balking at approving the loans.

"If you are not back at work, it's a huge problem," said Rick Cason, owner of Integrity Mortgage, a mortgage firm in Orlando, Fla. “Banks only deal in guaranteed income these days. It makes sense, but the guidelines are sometimes actually harsher than they need to be.”

Back in the slapdash days of easy credit, lenders were more likely to overlook the fact that a parent was out on maternity or paternity leave. But now that lenders have become more conservative, they are requiring new parents to jump through more hoops to prove their income will be enough to cover the mortgage.

So before some prospective parents start spending their Sundays at open houses, they should be prepared to deal with some complications. They may have to delay the purchase, deal with the banks’ bureaucracy (and requests for extra paperwork) or buy a home they can afford on one salary.

“Maternity leave or any other leave of absence often prevents a person from obtaining a mortgage,” said John Councilman, president of AMC Mortgage in Fallston, Md. “There are some who long for the days when such strict proof of income was not required.”

The lenders’ new attitude can be traced, in part, to new loan quality-control measures that went into effect earlier this year. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-governmental mortgage giants that buy the bulk of conventional loans from lenders, have not changed their rules for qualifying for a mortgage. But the system of checks and balances has been tightened, making lenders increasingly skittish.

Fannie, for instance, now requires lenders to recheck a borrower’s financial situation right before the loan closes. That includes calling an employer to verify employment. Before, lenders required only a statement in writing. Fannie’s new rules went into effect on June 1. Freddie’s similar rule took effect in January.

Both Fannie and Freddie have always required that borrowers have enough income to pay for the loan on closing day — and the lender must document that the income is likely to continue for at least three years.

But here is how some lenders are interpreting the guidelines for, say, a new mother receiving short-term disability insurance for a couple of months (new mothers may receive disability payments while on maternity leave, though the amount and length depend on state law and company policies).

Since the disability payments will not continue for three years, these lenders will not count it as qualifying income, brokers said, and will require the new mother to reapply for the mortgage once she returns to work. (The same logic may apply to an injured employee receiving worker’s compensation.)

That is what happened to Elizabeth Budde, a 33-year-old oncologist who lives in Kenmore, Wash. She nearly lost her mortgage after a loan officer learned she was home with her newborn.

With stellar credit and a solid job, Dr. Budde said she had been notified via e-mail that she was approved for a loan on June 15. But that note prompted an automatic, “out of the office” e-mail reply from Dr. Budde’s work account, which said she was out on maternity leave.

The next day, Dr. Budde received a second e-mail message from the lender, this time denying her loan approval. Since “maternity leave is classified as paid via short-term or temporary disability income,” the e-mail message said, it could not be used because it would not continue for three years.

The message also said the lender could not consider her regular, salaried income because she was not on the job. “I was really shocked,” Dr. Budde said. “At the time, they didn’t know how I was getting paid for my leave.”

The lender suggested that she get a co-signer — her husband is a graduate student, so his income was not enough to qualify — or reapply after she returned to work. But with the help of a representative from her real estate brokerage firm, Redfin, Dr. Budde was finally able to explain that she was receiving her full salary during her time off since she was using accumulated sick and vacation days. Once she provided a letter from her employer, proving her case, she was able to requalify.

Janis Smith, a spokeswoman for Fannie Mae, said there was nothing in its guidelines that would prohibit a borrower on maternity or paternity leave from qualifying for a mortgage, as long as the borrower had proof at the time of the closing that his or her income would be adequate upon returning to work. Letters from a doctor (with a return date) and the employer (stating the return date and salary) should be enough, she added.

Lenders cannot ask a woman if she is pregnant, brokers said, but they can ask borrowers if they expect their employment or income situation to change.

Source

California declares whooping cough epidemic

California public health officials on Monday strongly urged elderly adults, children and pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough, citing an epidemic in the state that is on track to be the worst in 50 years.

Nearly 1,500 cases of whooping cough have been reported statewide this year, nearly five times the number of cases last year, according to Dr. Gil Chavez, the state's epidemiologist.

Babies under 6 months old are the most vulnerable because even those vaccinated have yet to develop immunity, Chavez said.

Five infants have died of whooping cough so far this year, all under 3 months old. Two of the deaths were in Los Angeles County. A sixth possible infant death was still being investigated Monday in L.A. County, Chavez said.

Last year three infants died of the disease, one each in Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties. All of the whooping cough deaths since 1996 have been infants under 3 months old, according to Ken August, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

As of July 16, L.A. County had reported 289 possible whooping cough cases for the year, including 73 confirmed infections and 54 likely infections, according to the Department of Public Health. The county 156 reported cases of whooping cough last year.

The highly contagious upper-respiratory infection, also known as pertussis, initially may be mistaken for a cold, becoming more serious as it escalates and often causing those infected to make a tell-tale "whooping" sound as they gasp for air.

Pertussis infections typically peak every five years, Chavez said. The last outbreak in California was in 2005, when 3,182 cases were reported statewide and eight infants died. Since then, a booster vaccine was developed for adolescents and adults.

"It's time for Californians to help us by getting vaccinated and protecting themselves," Chavez said.

The Department of Public Health on Monday expanded its vaccination recommendation to include children age 7 and older; adults age 64 and older; women before, during and immediately after pregnancy; and anyone who may have contact with pregnant women or infants.

Dr. Jack Chou, a Baldwin Park family physician, said he was "heartened" by the new recommendations.

"That will allow us to give this vaccine to grandparents who care for infants," said Chou, president of the California Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis, said three-quarters of infants who catch whooping cough get it from someone in their home.

"That's why it's important to make sure their siblings and caregivers are protected," Blumberg said.

Public health officials have been tracking whooping cough cases by county, patient age and ethnicity, Chavez said. They have seen more infections in counties such as Marin, where more parents have opted out of vaccinating children, he said. Latino infants are most likely to get whooping cough, more than twice as likely as white infants. Among adults, whites are most likely to get infected, followed by Latinos, Chavez said.

Chavez said the department has provided free vaccines to local hospitals and community clinics and held a series of meetings with ethnic media outlets in Northern, Southern and Central California to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinations.

Department officials said the booster vaccine is safe for pregnant women, is made from a dead virus and is preservative-free.

Source

Monday, July 19, 2010

Probiotics in pregnancy could prevent diabetes: Study

Combining probiotics with perinatal dietary counseling could help reduce the risk of diabetes in mothers and provide a "safe and cost-effective" tool in addressing obesity in children, according to a new study from Finland.

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study found that probiotic-supplemented dietary counseling could help reduce the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, improve blood glucose control and improve child health.

"Taken together, long-term health benefits for mothers and children may be conferred by balanced maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation and by promoting the healthy gut microbiota in the mother and the child. The results of the present study add weight to the argument that the continuing burden of Western lifestyle diseases is modifiable,” write the researchers.

Initiated in 2002, the study included 256 women, who were randomized during their first trimester of pregnancy into a control and a dietary intervention group.

The women, none of whom had any chronic diseases, all received dietary counseling provided by welfare clinics according to a national program.

The intervention group received additionally intensive dietary counseling at every study visit provided by a nutritionist, the aim being a dietary intake complying with current recommendations, combined with conventional food products with favorable fat and fiber contents for use at home, said the researchers.

The intervention group was further randomized at baseline in a double-blind manner to receive either placebo capsules or probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supplied by Valio, and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 supplied by Chr. Hansen) at a dose of 1010 colony-forming units/d each.

The capsules were taken once per day, and the intervention period extended from the first trimester of pregnancy to the end of exclusive breast-feeding.

The researchers evaluated pregnancy outcome and fetal and infant growth during the 24 months’ follow-up.

All pregnancies were of normal duration, and there were no adverse events noted in mothers or in children, which confirms the safety of this approach, said the researchers.

They noted that those women who had taken probiotics had a reduced frequency of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM): 13 percent for the diet/probiotics group, compared to 36 percent for the diet/placebo group and 34 percent for the control group.

In addition, the dietary counseling during pregnancy reduced the risk of fetal overgrowth, which is thought to predispose to later obesity.

“Probiotic intervention reduced the risk of GDM and dietary intervention diminished the risk of larger birth size in affected cases,” wrote the researchers. “The results of the present study show that probiotic-supplemented perinatal dietary counseling could be a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing the metabolic epidemic. In view of the fact that birth size is a risk marker for later obesity, the present results are of significance for public health in demonstrating that this risk is modifiable.”

Source

Gulf Oil Spill Information for Pregnant Women

I'm pregnant. Can the oil harm me or my unborn baby?

Although the oil may contain some chemicals that could cause harm to an unborn baby under some conditions, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies. The effects that chemicals might have on a pregnant woman and her unborn baby would depend on many things: how the mother came into contact with the oil, how long she was in contact with it, how often she came into contact with it, and the overall health of the mother and her baby.

People, including pregnant women, can be exposed to these chemicals by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (water, food), or by touching them (skin). If possible, everyone, including pregnant women, should avoid the oil and spill-affected areas. Generally, a pregnant woman will see or smell the chemicals in oil before those chemicals can hurt her or the baby.

What can I do to protect myself and my unborn baby?

  • If you live along the coast, avoid areas where there are reports of oil reaching the shore.
  • If the smell bothers you or you see smoke, stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demand on your lungs and heart.
  • If you find any oil, avoid touching it, as well as oil spill-affected water and sand.
  • If some of the oil gets on your skin, wash it off as soon as you can with soap and water.
  • If you begin to feel sick after coming into contact with the oil or spill-affected areas, contact your doctor or other health professional.
  • Follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings related to the oil spill .

Can the air make me sick?

Although the oil vapors may contain some things that could be harmful to pregnant women, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies.

Smell

Pregnant women may be affected by the strong smell. It can give you a headache or upset stomach, so you may want to stay indoors, set your air conditioner to reuse indoor air, and avoid physical activities that put extra demand on your lungs and heart. If your symptoms do not improve after moving indoors, contact your health care professional, especially if you have asthma or other lung problems.

If you have to be outside, a N95 respirator with an odor control feature may provide some relief from the smell. Based on what we know now, you do not need to use a N95 respirator for your safety, but using one may make you more comfortable. Most hardware stores stock respirators (you should check the label to make sure the mask is a NIOSH certified N95 respirator with odor control or a charcoal layer). Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to be sure you are using the mask properly.

Burning oil

Burning the oil in the Gulf of Mexico is one method being used to ensure that no oil make it to shore and/or to potentially harm people, animals or the environment. As responders burn some of the oil, some “Particulate Matter” (PM) may be created. PM is a mix of very small particles and liquid droplets found in the air. PM varies in size and the smallest PM can get deep into your lungs. PM should not reach the shore because the fires are far offshore. When crews burn the spilled oil they carefully watch the weather, wind, and water conditions and monitor the air. They stop the burn right away if there is any problem.

If you smell or see smoke you can take the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Leave the area if you are at greater risk from breathing smoke. If you have a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma or cardiovascular disease, you may be at greater risk. Talk to your doctor about ways to avoid this risk.
  • Limit your exposure to smoke: stay inside and use your air conditioner set to a recirculation mode. If you do not have an air conditioner you may wish to leave the area until the smoke is completely gone.
  • Avoid activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart. These include exercising or physical chores, both outdoors and indoors.
  • Dust masks, bandanas, or other cloths (even if wet) will not protect you from smoke.

Is the water safe?

Drinking water is not expected to be affected by the spill. If you have any concerns about your water, contact your water utility company.

Swimming in water affected by the oil spill will be unpleasant and could cause harm. For now, pregnant women should avoid zones where there are reports of oil reaching the shore. It is important to stay away from any oil that reaches the shore because coming into close contact with the oil for long periods of time could cause harm. Avoid touching any of the oil you find, as well as oil-stained water and sand. If some of the oil gets on your skin, wash it off as soon as you can with soap and water. If you notice rashes or dark sticky spots on your skin even after you’ve washed the area of skin that came in contact with the oil, consult your doctor or other health care professional.

CDC recommends that people follow local and state public health guidelines and warnings related to the use of beaches and coastal water for recreational activities and fishing.

Is it safe for me to eat fish or seafood from the Gulf of Mexico?

As a precaution, fishing areas affected by the spill are closed to fishing and oyster collection, for both personal and commercial use. Any seafood available in stores comes from non-closed waters. Seafood that is unsafe will not be allowed in stores.

What are oil dispersants and are they harmful to me?

Oil spill dispersants are applied to break an oil slick into small droplets and prevent the oil from coming back together. It is unlikely that coastal residents will come into contact with undiluted dispersants, which are used out in the Gulf. It is possible that diluted dispersants could reach the coast in the air or the water. EPA is monitoring the air and water along the shore for dispersants and has not detected any at levels that could be a threat to you or your child.

Some of the chemicals in the dispersants can cause harm to people under some conditions, which is why the use of dispersants is carefully controlled and monitored. Pregnant women should avoid contact with dispersants or any other potentially harmful chemical, if possible. For most people, brief contact with a small amount of oil spill dispersants will do no harm. However, longer contact can cause a rash, dry skin, and eye irritation. In the unlikely event of breathing them in or swallowing them, other health effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and throat and lung irritation are possible. If you are concerned that you have been exposed to oil spill dispersants, contact your doctor or other health care professional.

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