Friday, August 13, 2010

Birth order makes a difference when it comes to brains, personality, study finds

Birth order within families has long sparked sibling rivalry, but it might also impact the child's personality and intelligence, a new study suggests.

The results lend support to some previous hypotheses - for instance, that the eldest sibling tends to have higher aptitude. But the study also contradicts other proposed ideas, for example, that first-borns tend to be more extroverted.

The findings shed light on the influence of sibling relationships, which often receives less attention compared with that of the mother-child or father-child relationship, said Tiffany L. Frank, a doctoral candidate at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y., who lead the study.

They also suggest some inherent differences between siblings exist, differences that might arise no matter what parents do. "While parents might want to treat each child equally, it's almost impossible," Frank said here at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Most previous studies on the influence of birth order have looked at children from different families. For instance, some studies have looked at U.S. presidents, Nobel Laureates or NASA astronauts to see whether they are mostly first-born children or later born children.U.S. presidents and science Nobel Laureates were found to be overwhelmingly first-borns, as were 21 of the first 23 NASA astronauts. However, these studies cannot take into account influences that arise from children being in the same family, such as the competition that might exist between siblings, Frank said.

In addition, most previous studies have asked subjects to think back to their childhood or adolescence, a method that might lead to inaccuracies if subjects misremember their past.

In the current study, Frank and her colleagues surveyed 90 pairs of siblings in high school. Subjects were asked to report their grades and rank themselves as compared with their siblings on intelligence, work ethic and academic performance. The researchers also obtained academic tests scores and grades to verify the students' own reports.

While the first-born tended to do better on measures of intelligence, the younger siblings had higher overall grade point averages.

Younger siblings might earn better grades, because they received mentoring from first-borns who already had to tackle certain subjects, the researchers say. Also, later born children might feel extra pressure to be competitive, and might try to out-do their older siblings in the hopes of gaining extra attention from parents.

In a second experiment researchers looked at differences in personality between 76 pairs of siblings in high school. Subjects rated themselves on a series of statements designed to assess personality.

Later born siblings were found to be more extroverted (sociable, outgoing), sentimental, forgiving and open to new experiences than their older siblings. First-borns were found to be more perfectionistic than their younger siblings.

The youngsters might also be more open to new experiences, because they "see the obstacles that their older siblings have overcome and therefore feel more secure in challenging themselves," the researchers say.

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Kelsey Grammer & New Girlfriend Expecting

Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, 55, and his new girlfriend, British flight attendant Kayte Walsh, 29, are expecting a child together.

"Kayte and Kelsey are happy to confirm what Kayte's father told the London Daily Mail is true," Grammer's publicist confirms with People.

At 55 the Cheers star is two years older than Kayte's father, Alan Walsh, who confirmed his daughter's pregnancy to the Daily Mail. "It’s great news and we are very pleased for them both," he said. "I don’t know how long they have been together and I have not met him yet, but I’m looking forward to it. We just found out about her pregnancy a couple of days ago."

Kelsey's marriage to Camille Donatacci, with whom he has a daughter Mason, 8, and son Jude, 5, ended earlier this year. He also has a daughter Spencer, 26, and Greer Kandace, 18, from previous relationships.

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'Baby Talk' May Play Key Role in Language Acquisition

Baby talk is found across languages and cultures, but the brain mechanisms that underlie it are not known.

Reiko Mazuka, Yoshi-Taka Matsuda and colleagues at the Riken Brain Science Institute in Tokyo used functional MRI to assess brain activity in 35 first-time parents whose infants hadn't started to speak (preverbal) and compared them to 30 men and women without any parenting experience. The study also included 16 mothers with toddlers who spoke two-word utterances and 18 mothers with children in elementary school.

The participants' brain activity was monitored while they listened to recorded baby talk, which triggers brain activation patterns similar to those that occur when someone speaks baby talk, also called infant-directed speech (IDS).

The brain scans showed that mothers with preverbal infants had increased brain activity in areas of the brain that govern language. This heightened brain activity did not occur in any other group, including mothers whose children had started to speak, according to a Riken news release.

Among mothers with preverbal infants, those who were extroverts also had increased cortical activation in speech-related motor areas of the brain, the investigators found.

The results show that there are clear distinctions in how people process and generate IDS. This is evidence that baby talk acts as a link for linguistic transfer from mother to infant and plays a crucial role in the early stages of infant language acquisition, the researchers concluded.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jason Schwartzman To Be A Dad

Congratulations to Jason Schwartzman and his wife of one year, clothing designer Brady Cunningham!

During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the I ♥ Huckabees star announced that he is going to be a dad.

"I have this mustache, and the reason I have this mustache is, when I was young, my father had a mustache ... growing up, it embarrassed me," the actor/musician, 30, said, and added, "I'm expecting a child in December..."

Here is the interview where Jason talks about his father and how he plans to make his kid laugh:

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4 sisters have 4 babies in 4 days

Four sisters from one family have each given birth within four days. That's four sisters, four babies, four days. The same obstetrician delivered the babies of three of the sisters - 27-year-old Lilian Sepulveda, 29-year-old Saby Pazos and 24-year-old Leslie Pazos - in the same suburban Chicago hospital on Friday and Saturday.

A fourth sister, Heidi Lopez, gave birth on Monday in California.

Family members said the women didn't plan the timing. Obstetrician Dr. Jean Alexandre, who delivered the three babies in suburban Chicago, calls the births "very unusual but wonderful at the same time."

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Immune responses during pregnancy linked to schizophrenia among offspring

In a study published this month in Schizophrenia Research, Temple University psychologist Lauren Ellman found that exposure during pregnancy to certain immune proteins, such as those produced in response to the flu, leads to increased risk for brain abnormalities associated with schizophrenia in offspring.

The good news, says Ellman, is that not all of the women in the study who showed an increase in immune proteins gave birth to offspring who developed brain alterations. "This tells us that some other factor — perhaps a genetic vulnerability or something from the environment — must also be present for the increased immune protein levels to lead to the brain alterations we identified," she said.

Previous studies, including one by Ellman, have already established a link between maternal exposure to flu and increased risk for schizophrenia in offspring, but it was not clear why the link existed, because most infections do not cross the placenta. Researchers then began to look at maternal immune responses to infection as the possible cause for the increased risk.

Of particular interest to the researchers were proteins termed proinflammatory cytokines, which are produced by the body in response to infection.

"Now, it appears that the damaging effects to the fetus are related to these maternal responses to infection during pregnancy rather than to the infections themselves," Ellman said.

Ellman's study was conducted on archived blood samples drawn during the 1950s and 1960s from a group of approximately 12,000 pregnant women during each trimester of their pregnancies. The women and their offspring were followed after delivery, so those whose children had developed schizophrenia could be easily identified.

Her study showed a direct correlation between structural brain changes among offspring diagnosed with schizophrenia and increases in maternal levels of interleukin-8 (IL-8), one of the proinflammatory cytokines produced when fighting infection during pregnancy.

"The brain abnormalities we found are ones consistently linked with schizophrenia, suggesting that an elevated immune response during pregnancy might contribute to some of the brain abnormalities associated with the disorder," Ellman said.

Maternal IL-8 levels were not related to any brain changes among a control group of offspring, indicating that vulnerability to schizophrenia needed to be present for the fetal brain to be affected, she said.

Ellman is uniquely positioned to answer questions related to pregnancy and fetal development. An assistant professor of psychology in Temple's College of Liberal Arts, she examines how maternal stress and immune functioning during pregnancy impact fetal brain development.

"I set out to study the impact of stress during pregnancy, and it became clear pretty quickly that you couldn't study the impact of stress without looking at the immune system," she said. "The two are completely intertwined."

According to Ellman, one of the main ways pregnancy makes women susceptible to infections is that changes in the immune system during pregnancy reduce some of the body's key defenses. In addition, maternal emotional states, like stress, can alter immune functioning. This increased vulnerability to infection comes at a time when the fetal brain is experiencing enormous growth.

"In light of our study, which calls attention to a pregnant woman's increased susceptibility to infection and the potential risks to her developing fetus, it is easy to see why the medical community routinely recommends that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant take special precautions to prevent infection, such as getting vaccinated," she said.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alanis Morissette Is Pregnant!

Alanis Morissette is pregnant!

The singer, 36, announces the happy news in the new Us Weekly magazine.

In Us' "25 Things You Don't Know About Me" section, Morissette lists "I am pregnant!" as No. 25.

Morissette wed rapper Souleye, 30 (real name: Mario Treadway), this past May 22 at their Los Angeles home.

"We're very excited to embark on this journey with each other," she wrote on her Twitter page at the time.

Congratulations to the musical newlyweds!

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MA Court Ok's Firing Mom for Extended Maternity Leave

Justice Francis Spina wrote in the decision that "a female employee is only entitled to (the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) when she is absent from employment for no more than eight weeks."

The case was brought by a housekeeper for the president of a small Quincy telecommunications firm, Global Naps Inc., who said her supervisor told her that she could take an unpaid maternity leave longer than eight weeks. But the plaintiff, Sandy Stephens, said that when she called her supervisor anticipating her return to work after 11 weeks, she learned she had been fired.

Though Stephens cited a Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination guideline that advises employers to notify employees in writing if they don’t plan to guarantee a job beyond eight weeks, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the guideline is not law.

Natalie Lukasik, 32, of Rockland, said the current law means she will quit her job on Nov. 14, when she is due to deliver a baby boy.

“They wouldn’t hold my position (beyond eight weeks),” she said. “There is no pay, there is no maternity leave.”

Also sporting a baby-bump yesterday was Milton hairstylist Sandra Carter, 26, who wondered how mothers could be expected to leave their infants at just 2 months old. Carter, whose due date was yesterday, said she’s one of the lucky ones - she doesn’t have to worry about jetting back to work, but she thinks the state should mandate a 12-month maternity leave.

State law guarantees women unpaid leave of up to eight weeks, which is often super-ceded by federal laws that guarantee 12 weeks of leave for workers at companies with 50 or more employees.

Portia Wu, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Partnership for Women & Families, called the ruling “astonishing.”

Yet Wu pointed out that Massachusetts ranks in the middle of states as far as maternity leave benefits go. The most generous is California, which provides parents six weeks of paid leave and four months of partially paid leave.

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Child Care Costs More Than College

A study released last week by the National Association of Child Care Resource Referral Agencies finds that the cost of center-based care has now surpassed the cost of public-university tuition in a majority of states.

In the past 10 years, the agency's latest survey found, the cost of child care for the youngest children increased twice as fast as the median family income throughout the country, and in half the states it far outpaced the rate of inflation. The recommendation of the Department of Health and Human Services is that parents spend no more than 10 percent of their family income on child care. But in 36 states, the cost of center-based care for an infant exceeds 10 percent of median income for a married couple, and for single parents, the cost of center-based infant care exceeds 10 percent of median income in every state.

Exact numbers vary — from a low of $4,550 per year for infant care in Mississippi in 2009 to a high of more than $18,750 in Massachusetts. Infant care was particularly expensive — the yearly cost of care in a center is higher, on average, than the the yearly cost of food in every region of the United States. But even as children graduate to the toddler room, care hardly becomes a bargain. The monthly costs for center care for an infant plus a preschooler are higher than the median cost of rent, and nearly as high as the monthly mortgage for most families. (Costs for school-age children ranged from $2,160 in Mississippi to $10,400 in New York.)

Comparisons to college tuition also vary from state to state, but almost everywhere the ratio is startling. In 40 states the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college. In Massachusetts, the yearly infant care cost exceeded the yearly cost of tuition and fees by $9,533; in New York, Wyoming and Washington, D.C., the infant-care costs were more than double the college costs.

What is the cost of child care where you live?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pregnancy and Pre-Existing Diabetes

Pregnancy is a time of wonder and amazement -- and for women with pre-existing diabetes, it is also a time for extremely careful (and sometimes baffling) disease management. How do you plan for this? What risks are involved? What can you expect? The August issue of Diabetes Forecast, the consumer magazine of the American Diabetes Association, features articles about pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes to help. With good care and planning women with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes can have safe pregnancies -- and healthy babies.

If you have diabetes and want to become pregnant, the first step should be visiting your doctor -- or several doctors. Depending on your diabetes management, you may want to see an endocrinologist in addition to your ob-gyn for a pre-conception visit. When choosing your doctors, keep in mind that you may have appointments as often as twice a week, so try to find a physician that you are comfortable with and whose office you are comfortable getting to.

While pre-existing diabetes automatically puts your pregnancy in the high-risk category, healthy habits can lower the chance of problems for both mother and child. First and foremost, keep your blood glucose in check -- in general, your A1C should be below 7 percent before you conceive. Your health care team may also want to discuss your weight, use of prenatal vitamins and other supplements, the status of any diabetes-related complications, and your current medications (such as ACE inhibitors or statins, which are not considered safe for use in pregnancy). Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with type 2 diabetes, so for some women with diabetes, asking about fertility treatments may also be in order.

Once you become pregnant, your body's changes can make blood glucose levels go from one extreme to the other. "I spent the entire first trimester with my face buried in the fridge," says Kerri Sparling, 31, who has type 1 diabetes and whose daughter was born in April. "I was low all the time. It wasn't until probably the second trimester that the insulin resistance kicked in. Everything I ate, the insulin didn't cover it." As your body changes through your pregnancy, so will its reactions to the elements you normally use to manage your blood glucose, so be prepared to communicate with your health care team often and make any necessary adjustments.

From pre-conception planning to integrating diabetes management into your birth plan and facing post-partum depression, having a baby can seem like an overwhelming task for women with diabetes, and yet, many women with diabetes find they have the best glucose control of their life during pregnancy. "This was so, so important to me that I was willing to do whatever to make sure she came out right," says Sparling. "It's so worth it."

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Annie Wersching Welcomes First Child

24 star Annie Wersching and her husband Stephen Full have welcomed their first child, PEOPLE reports.

Annie, 33, gave birth to Freddie (middle name: Wersching) Full on August 8 at 4:46 PM in Los Angeles.

Baby Freddie weighed in at 7 lbs., 15 oz, and was 18 inches long.

"He has a full head of hair and is very calm and sweet and adorable," Wersching says. "We are all feeling great!"

Wersching and Full, an actor and comedian of Disney's I'm in the Band, married at their Los Angeles home in September 2009.

Congratulations to the Wersching-Full family!

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Vending Machine Stocks Pregnancy Tests

Commuters at some railway stations in Switzerland are finding a new convenience via a vending machine: pregnancy tests.

The Austrian Times reports that pregnancy testing kits are being stocked in the machine at stations during a month-long trial.

Makers Maybe Baby said the idea is that women will not have to be embarrassed by buying a test from a pharmacist.

"We've had a few demands for refunds where people thought they were getting chocolate but they seem to be very popular," a rail worker told the Austrian Times.

The Daily Mail said a sex clinic in London is trying something similar by offering teens pregnancy tests and infection checks from a vending machine originally meant for soda drinks.

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Jeff Gordon and Wife Welcome a Son

Congratulations to Jeff Gordon and his wife Ingrid Vandebosch who welcomed their second child on August 9. The NASCAR driver announced the happy news on his website: "Leo Benjamin Gordon was born at 8:53 a.m., weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 19 inches long. He's happy and healthy, and Mom is doing great," said Gordon.

Jeff and Ingrid are already parents to 3-year-old daughter, Ella. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion won't be home for long! He's heading to Michigan later this week to participate in all on-track activities at Michigan International Speedway, site of this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Princess Mary Of Denmark Expecting Twins

Congratulations are in order for Danish Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik who are currently expecting their third and fourth children!

A spokesperson for the couple has confirmed the happy news:

"Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess have the great pleasure to announce that the Crown Princess is expecting twins. The birth is expected to take place at the Rigshospitalet (hospital in Copenhagen) in the course of the month of January, 2011."

The royal couple, who were married in 2004, are already parents to Prince Christian, 4, and Princess Isabella, 3.

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Home births: No drugs, no doctors, lots of controversy

Erin Riley immersed herself in warm bathwater, tilted her head against the tub and dozed in and out of sleep between contractions.

She serenely prepared to push her son into the world, and other times, she winced in pain and moaned to the midwife, "I can't do this anymore."

After six hours of labor, Riley gave birth in January. Her son, Sullivan, was cleaned and placed in her arms in their Okolona, Ohio, home.

There were no doctors or drugs -- just a bathtub and a midwife.

Women like Riley are increasingly choosing home births in the United States. Home births increased by about 5 percent in 2005 from the year before, according to the latest National Vital Statistics Report published in March. Reports often are released years later because of the time required for data collection and analysis.

However, some doctors are warning that home births can be risky.

A recent editorial by the British medical journal The Lancet stated that: "Women have the right to choose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk. There are competing interests that need to be weighed carefully."

While home births have benefits like shorter recovery time and fewer lacerations, the writers of the editorial warned that complications could arise and that high-risk pregnancies should be delivered at hospitals.

Out-of-hospital births represent about 38,500 of the 4.3 million live U.S. births, making up about 0.90 percent in 2005 and 2006, according to the National Vital Statistics Report.

Home birth supporters say childbirth is a natural part of life that has been treated like a disorder in hospitals. Some mothers expressed concern about Cesarean sections, induced labor and hospital infections.

Medical organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists do not support home births.

The obstetricians organization's policy is that hospitals including birthing centers are "the safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period."

"Most patients will have a fine delivery," said Dr. Erin Tracy, a delegate for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "It's the ones where complications arise."

"We're biologically programmed to have children," Riley said. "It's in the hospital setting they take that away."

After researching the topic on the internet and in books, she chose to give birth at home. Her skepticism also extends to childhood immunizations, and she decided not to vaccinate her son until she does more research.

There is an increasing distrust of medicine, said Dr. Amy Tuteur, a retired obstetrician, who blogs about the topic.

But that distrust has turned into a form of "reflexive doubt" that constantly challenges conventional wisdom in a belief that "smart, empowered people don't listen to their doctors," said Tuteur.

Some mothers have become increasingly competitive about how natural their births are, she said.

"First it was, 'I had my baby in a hospital, but I didn't have an epidural,' " said Tuteur, who doesn't support home births. "Then it was, 'I had a baby with a midwife at home, not in the hospital.' The cutting edge is now unassisted birth -- 'I had my baby at home, and I had no one there except for my husband.' "

Home birthing is a polarizing issue.

It can get harsh, said Beverly Flaxington.

The Walpole, Massachusetts, resident gave birth to her second child at home because she believed "it was safer and healthier to be at home than to be at the hospital" and she didn't want the "loss of control."

Flaxington also wanted to have a vaginal birth after having a Cesarean section for her first child.

During the home birth, her 10.5-pound baby's shoulders lodged into her pelvic bone. The midwife cut Flaxington about six or seven times to remove the baby.

"She started to pray out loud," Flaxington recalled. "Everyone started doing that and I remember thinking, 'This is not normal.'"

When the baby came out, his face was blue. They rushed him to the hospital to have him checked.

Kiernan was perfectly healthy, but because the hospital staff started him on antibiotics, he had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for 10 days.

The nurses "would not have anything to do with me," Flaxington recalled. She said one nurse told her, "You have some nerve trying to have a baby at home. You should be in jail."

Despite the complication, Flaxington said, "I don't have any regrets. Everything happens for a reason. My son is healthy. I'm not a religious person, but I thank God he's fine."

"This is such a personal decision that women and their significant others need to make," she said. "There are tremendous benefits to working with midwives and there are benefits to hospitals and Western medicine. It's a waste of energy to fight about what's right or wrong."

Holly Powell Kennedy, president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives agreed.

"Our belief is that the best care of a woman is to individualize her care to what she needs -- what works best for her, based on her health, past history, emotional and psychological concerns and who she wants around her."

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Rod Stewart and wife expecting second child

Rod Stewart is going to be a dad again.

His wife, Penny Lancaster, 39, discovered she was pregnant again while the two were celebrating their third wedding anniversary in June in Portofino, Italy, reports Hello! magazine.

Rod and Penny have a four-year-old son, Alastair, and Rod also has five other children from previous relationships -- Kimberly, 30; Sean, 29; Ruby, 23; Renee, 18 and Liam, 15.

They said in a statement to Hello: "We were thrilled and delighted to be able to tell Alastair that he was going to be the big brother to a little baby, expected just before Mummy's 40th birthday." And just after Daddy turns 66.

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