Friday, January 14, 2011

Alicia Silverstone is Pregnant


The baby boom continues!

Alicia Silverstone and her husband of 5 years Christopher Jarecki are expecting their first child.

The actress, author and healthy living advocate is surely thrilled by the happy news - just last April she revealed that she felt "destined to be a mother."

Congratulations to Alicia and Christopher!

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New Genetic Test Screens Would-Be Parents

A newly developed test could screen would-be parents for hundreds of different disease genes, to make sure they are not passed on to any future children.

The test's makers say it should cost less than $400 and that routinely offering it to prospective parents could someday eliminate many deadly childhood diseases.

"We definitely want it to be pre-pregnancy. We do want it to be couples," says Stephen Kingsmore, a physician-researcher at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., who led the team that developed this new test. "I think it's going to be a personal decision, whether a couple wants to be tested."

The inspiration for this new test came from Craig and Charlotte Benson, of Austin, Texas. In 2008, their daughter Christiane was diagnosed with Batten disease, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that currently has no cure. It progresses from vision loss to memory problems and seizures, and eventually death.

"Both her mom and I carry a gene mutation, a single gene mutation," explains Craig Benson. He and his wife didn't know they were carriers before they had children — indeed, they'd never heard of Batten disease.

Craig Benson works for a biotech company, so soon after his daughter was diagnosed, he and his colleagues were discussing how difficult it is for rare childhood diseases to get much attention or research that could lead to cures. They wondered about new ways of trying to prevent these diseases.

They knew that one devastating childhood disease, Tay-Sachs, has been virtually eliminated in people with Eastern European Jewish ancestry. This has been done by offering screening tests to would-be parents with that background. If both parents carry the Tay-Sachs mutation, they can take steps so that they won't have a baby with this disease.

"We thought, you know, that's a great idea and a great strategy. Why is that not more broadly applied?" says Benson, who noted that DNA testing technology has been advancing rapidly.

He and his colleagues approached Kingsmore, who was then at a nonprofit called the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, N.M. They asked him if it would be possible to make an affordable test that could screen all prospective parents for numerous rare genetic diseases.

This week, in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Kingsmore's team describes that test. For less than $400, it can check a person's DNA for all mutations in genes related to nearly 448 severe childhood diseases.

And Kingsmore says that's just the beginning.

"Over the next six months we'll be taking the number up to 580 conditions," he says, "at which point we'll have represented just about every childhood disease that's severe enough to merit inclusion."

"On average we found that each of us carries two or three mutations that could cause one of these severe childhood diseases," Kingsmore says.

Right now, preconception genetic screening is recommended for just a few diseases — like Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis — in certain populations that have a higher risk.

Already, a couple of companies offer a routine preconception screening test for couples. For example, one test, sold by a company called Counsyl in Redwood City, Calif., is offered through doctors and IVF clinics. But Kingsmore says these currently available tests screen for far fewer diseases and can detect only known mutations — and he says for many rare disorders, all the mutations are not known.

This new test could become widely available soon, and Benson wants to offer it through a nonprofit he started, the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, so that doctors could provide screening to everyone who wants it.

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Selma Blair is Pregnant

Another pregnancy announcement out of Hollywood: actress Selma Blair and her designer boyfriend Jason Bleic are expecting their first child!

A rep for the 38-year-old Hellboy star confirmed the happy news to People this week.

Selma and Jason reportedly met last year while collaborating on a project for the EVER fashion line, for which he serves as creative director.

A friend of the pair reveals, "They are ecstatic. They couldn't be happier."

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Large Number of Toxins Found in Pregnant U.S. Women


Multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in items such as nonstick cookware, furniture, processed foods and beauty products, were found in the blood and urine of pregnant U.S. women, according to a UCSF study being released today.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, marks the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted, the authors said.

Of the 163 chemicals studied, 43 of them were found in virtually all 268 pregnant women in the study. They included polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a prohibited chemical linked to cancer and other health problems; organochlorine pesticides; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, banned compounds used as flame retardants; and phthalates, which are shown to cause hormone disruption.

Some of these chemicals were banned before many of the women were even born.

The presence of the chemicals in the women, who ranged in age from 15 to 44, shows the ability of these substances to endure in the environment and in human bodies as well, said lead author Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

Woodruff said people have the ability to reduce but, as the findings show, not eliminate their exposure to chemicals. "We want to show people this is an issue we want the government to pay attention to and address," she said.

The study focused on pregnant women because of the potential for exposure to multiple chemicals to hurt their unborn fetuses, but also looked at the data for nonpregnant women. The research did not follow the subjects to determine whether actual harm occurred.

Researchers noted that the levels of certain chemicals were actually higher in the nonpregnant women, suggesting that behavioral changes made during pregnancy such as not smoking, for the health of their unborn fetuses, or physiological factors might play a role.

The chemicals found in 99 percent to 100 percent of the women included certain PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and perchlorate.

Bisphenol A, a chemical used in cans and other food packaging that has been linked to health problems including brain development, was found in 96 percent of the women. A broken-down form of DDT, a pesticide banned in the United States in 1972, was found in virtually all the women.

Arlene Blum, founder of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley and a visiting scholar with UC Berkeley's department of chemistry, was not surprised by the results. She was not involved in the study.

"Certain classes of chemicals we know go into people's bodies and stay there for very long periods of time," she said, explaining that these classes of chemicals have stable bonds, meaning they don't break down easily.
Although some flame retardants were banned from clothing in the 1970s, Blum said, similar retardants were used in other consumer goods such as the foam in furniture, the plastic around television sets and even baby products. She blamed much of the ubiquitousness of the chemicals on California's strict flammability laws, which are often modeled by other states.

The American Chemistry Council responded to the study with a statement that said biomonitoring research conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the mere presence of a chemical in the body does not mean that it will cause negative health effects.

The group also said bodies naturally absorb organic and man-made chemicals, but technological advances now allow researchers to measure exceedingly minute traces of these substances.

Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, said the levels of exposure shown in the study were low, but she was concerned about fetal harm that could be caused by the mother's exposure to multiple chemicals acting together.

While it is impossible to completely avoid exposure, here are some suggestions from health experts on reducing exposure to some harmful chemicals:

Eating: Eat a well-balanced diet, wash hands often and do not smoke. This will help maintain overall health and reduce some of the effects of harmful chemicals.

Microwaving: Avoid microwaving food in plastic. Use ceramic or glass instead.

Cleaning: Keep a clean home. Toxic chemicals are present in household dust and dirt.

Shopping: Choose products wisely - everything from paints, cleaning supplies to cookware and beauty products. Select safer, nontoxic products.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Average of 18 Months for New Mothers to Feel "Normal" Again


As the dirty diapers pile up and a good night's sleep seems a distant memory, it is easy for a new mother to think life will never be the same again.

But it will happen - even if it does take an average of 18 months, according to a poll of thousands of ­British women.

During that one and a half year period, however, sleepless nights, loss of independence and weight worries all contribute to a crisis of confidence.

Six out of ten claimed their confidence took a hit when they realized their old clothes didn’t fit.

And a quarter of the 3,000 women said they felt they were competing with other mothers – including celebrities – to lose weight quickly after birth.

Unsurprisingly, 64 per cent of those polled for fashion website A Beautiful Mummy claimed a lack of routine in the early months meant they struggled to make it through the day.

Around a third blamed breastfeeding for limiting what they could wear and 39 per cent felt unattractive in every outfit they put on.

Others struggled to adjust to the loss of "me time," with 63 per cent saying they let themselves in terms of their hair, make-up or clothes.

Siobhan Freegard, of the Netmums parenting advice website, said that while 18 months might be the average figure, many women will take longer.

"New mothers go through phases," she said. "The first is the dressing-gown phase. Then you get to the phase where you have managed clean hair. Clean hair and make-up is another phase... But this doesn’t mean you are not happy during that time," she stressed. "It just means you have different priorities."

The change in priorities also meant that nine in ten new mothers polled said work no longer seemed as important after they gave birth, and 79 per cent didn’t want to leave their baby to go back. Many also feared they would no longer excel in their job.

For those who did take the plunge, it tended to take at least ten months to feel part of the gang again when returning to work after maternity leave.

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Pregnant Woman Kicked Out of Bar


 When Michelle Lee, 29, walked into her hometown bar in Roselle, Illinois, late last Thursday night she was feeling frumpy, tired and really, really big. Eight months pregnant with her first child, she'd flown into town that day from Denver to attend her baby shower and her friends had talked her into a night out. But her effort at late-night fun lasted a whopping 15 minutes. No sooner than Lee had arrived, a bouncer at the the Coach House Restaurant told her she had to leave; no pregnant women allowed.

 "I was stunned," she said. "He said, 'If anything happened to you here, we would be responsible.'"

A manager at Coach House declined to comment, saying he wasn't on duty when the incident occurred. The manager and bouncer involved in ousting Lee did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Lee said she was near the bar sipping water with a friend who'd ordered shots when a bouncer approached her and told her she needed to follow him.
"It was a bunch of malarkey really," she said, recalling the bouncer's comments. "He said to me, 'I have a personal question to ask you, are you pregnant?' I said yes. Then he said, 'I'm going to have to ask you to leave.'"

Lee said she was totally humiliated by the incident and agreed to go home without argument. "I thought maybe there was some sort of pregnant woman ordinance."

But Roselle, Illinois, law enforcement officials said there's no reason Lee should have been turned away. The town has no regulations barring pregnant women from bars. Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, said she'd never heard of any businesses allowed to decline service or entrance simply because a woman is pregnant.

"That is not acceptable behavior," she said, adding that she thought the bouncer should be fired and the Coach House owner sued. "We live in a country where people feel increasingly empowered to make decisions for pregnant woman."

Lee, who's now considering getting an attorney, told her mother, Phyllis Lee-Boyd, about the incident the next morning. Lee-Boyd contacted Coach House to complain and said an employee told her that they had a right to refuse service. Lee and Lee-Boyd have not been contacted by Coach House following the incident.

 "I was livid," Lee-Boyd said, adding that this will be her first grandchild and the incident really put a damper on the family's weekend. "Pregnant women have a right to go out and enjoy themselves."
Lee said she had no plans to drink alcohol that night. "I wanted to eat a slice of pizza," she said with a laugh. "It was really sad, it looked really good."

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Amber Alerts Join Facebook

Facebook announced Wednesday it is teaming up with authorities to help find missing children. People can now find Amber Alerts on the popular networking site.

With a mere click of the mouse, or update on your phone, you can help find a missing child. "Being able to immediately get those alerts on your phone, on your computer, wherever you're at, means that a child can come home alive," said Colleen Nick, of the Morgan Nick Foundation.

Colleen Nick's daughter, Morgan, went missing back in 1995 at a little league ball game in Alma. More than a decade later, she is still missing. "If we'd had a resource like the Amber Alert when Morgan was missing, that could have very much impacted her case. We probably would have very likely found her right away," said Nick.

Facebook users in 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands can all sign up to receive the alerts. You can pick which states will send you alerts. "What we're trying to do is to use the kinds of mechanisms and the kinds of tools that people are using all over the world," said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Nick says 2,000 children are reported missing every day in the United States, and every second counts. "When you can immediately notify the public and have thousands of eyes and ears looking for that child...we can see a child recovered very very quickly," said Nick.

To get Amber Alerts on your Facebook visit http://www.facebook.com/AMBERalert.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kate Hudson is Pregnant


A source confirms in Us Weekly that Kate Hudson, 31, is 14 weeks pregnant with boyfriend Matthew Bellamy's baby.

"It was not planned, but they are excited and embracing it," the source reveals to Us.

The insider adds that the actress, who has been dating the Muse frontman, 32, for nine months, is stoked for her 7-year-old son Ryder (with ex-husband Chris Robinson, 44) to have a little playmate.

"She is happy for Ryder to finally have a brother or sister," says the source.

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California family leave program gets high marks

Nearly a decade after California legislators passed the nation's first paid family leave law, researchers say the downside for businesses has been minimal while thousands of families have seen their working lives improve.

Men are spending more time with their newborns. Women are breastfeeding more. And workers who take family leave enjoy their jobs more. Those are some of the conclusions of a new study by Eileen Applebaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, and Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at UCLA and City University of New York.

"All the fears that this program would be disruptive to business were not well founded," Milkman said.

Passed in 2002 and implemented in 2004, the Paid Family Leave Act provides eligible employees with replacement pay — up to 55% of their usual earnings — for up to six weeks. It supplements the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides unpaid leave for people who need to take time off to care for sick family members or bond with a new child.

In the state's last fiscal year 167,523 people took time off for "bonding" with a new child, while 23,220 took time off to care for ill family members, according to the Employment Development Department. The workers received, on average, $488 a week.

The program is funded by a 1.2% payroll tax that also helps pay for a state disability insurance program.

About 12.3 million Californians are eligible for the program, according to the EDD, and 1.2 million claims have been filed since the program began in 2004.

Still, many California workers are not covered by the law. Independent contractors and freelancers have to opt in to the program. Some workers, hampered by the recession, said the wage replacement was too meager to allow them to take time off. And still others don't know about paid family leave.

When the bill was passed, the California Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns that the new law would be detrimental to employers. Its opinion has not changed much since then.

"The combination of paid family leave with the myriad of other protected employee leave programs that only California requires creates a significant administrative burden on employers, increases costs and minimizes the ability of companies to expand hiring and create new jobs," said Jennifer Barrera, a policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce.

Employers also have benefited from the leave, Applebaum and Milkman said, through increased employee morale, productivity and job performance.

Mothers were more likely to breastfeed if they took leave — 92.5% of those on paid family leave breast-fed their newborns, compared with 83.3% of those who did not take leave.

The law has also encouraged fathers to take leave to care for newborns, according to the study. In 2004, only 17% of claims for "bonding" — typically taken to care for a new child — were filed by men. That number rose steady to 26% in 2009-10.


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Tia Mowry is Pregnant


Sister, Sister star Tia Mowry will soon be a mom.

Mowry - who acted opposite her identical twin, Tamera, on the '90s sitcom and now stars on BET's The Game - is due July 3. Her rep confirms exclusively in the new Us Weeklyout Wednesday.

The baby will be the first child for Mowry, 32, and her hubby of two years, Battle: Los Angeles actor Cory Hardrict, 31, and the pregnancy will be documented by the Style Network for a show to air later this year.

"We are both so excited to be parents," the couple tell Us in a statement. "We have been wanting this a long time!"

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This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Jane Krakowski bumps it up at the beach, Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous in a draping dress, Mariah Carey is all in black, Natalie Portman dresses casual in blue and black stripes and then gets formal in a long black gown.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jewel Is Pregnant!

Singer-songwriter Jewel, has confirmed to PEOPLE that she and her rodeo star husband, Ty Murray, are expecting their first child!

"I took a pregnancy test and it was positive!" explained the 36-year-old songstress, who is now in her second trimester.

She received the exciting news on another big day in her life - her first day on the job as co-host of the upcoming Bravo reality show, Going Platinum: “It was so hard to keep it a secret. I was worried I’d start throwing up on set and everyone would be like, ‘Oh, she’s pregnant.’”

Jewel also took to Twitter to share her happy secret:
"yes, many of you guessed it- Im pregnant! Ty and I r so excited!"
The 'Foolish Games' singer and her husband, who tied the knot on August 7, 2008 in the Bahamas, are thrilled to be pregnant after trying to conceive for two years: “I have always been a workaholic,” admits the mom-to-be. “So I had to learn how to slow down and take care of myself in a different way.”

Now that she is expecting, Jewel wants to savour the experience:

“I’m trying to be in the moment and really enjoy my pregnancy.”

Congratulations to the happy couple!

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Owen Wilson to Become a Dad


Owen Wilson's about to report for daddy duty.

A rep for the actor confirms to UsMagazine.com that "Owen Wilson and Jade Duell are happy to be expecting a baby." A source adds that she is "due any day."

Duell is currently in Hawaii, where she plans to give birth.

First-time dad Wilson, 42, is "very excited and involved with the pregnancy," the insider tells Us, adding that the couple "want to do everything as natural as possible."

The Little Fockers star, whose past loves have included Kate Hudson and Sheryl Crow, "has been been doing research and learning as much as he can. He's super into it and asks a lot of questions to make sure he knows what's going on every step of the way."

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Woman Bikes to Hospital in Labor

One soon-to-be mom didn't let a little thing like labor stop her from getting in a bike ride. Susie Weber, 41, of Menasha, Wisconsin biked one full mile to the hospital while in labor, and she didn't find anything really unique about it. Her husband, Paul, was biking alongside her all the way. At age 41, she was also considered high risk, but received prior approval from her obstetrician for the final bike ride.

Weber maintains that she leads such an active life (one that includes regular 5 mile long bike rides) so this was nothing very unusual. Weber biked to at least 10 of her prenatal appointments. A pilot with United Airlines for the past 12 years, she was accustomed to being under pressure.

According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Weber was awakened by contractions at about 2am. She stayed home until the contractions reached three minutes apart and then started her bike ride to Theda Clark Medical Center at about 10:30am with her husband who was biking alongside her. She thinks the ride may have helped:
“It was 67 to 70 degrees. No wind. It was just beautiful. I think I had one or two contractions along the way, but they actually seemed mild in comparison. I think it was because I was distracted.”
Did the trek speed things along? Yes and no. When Weber arrived at the hospital, she was already 8 centimeters dilated but it would be another 12 hours before a healthy baby, Tess was born at 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

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Marion Cottilard Is Pregnant


Congratulations are in order for Oscar-winner Marion Cottilard and her partner Guillaume Canet, who are expecting their first child!

A rep for the Inception star confirmed the happy news to PEOPLE.

The 35-year-old French beauty and her director beau met on the set of the 2003 film Love Me If You Dare, but didn't begin dating until 2007.

Though no further details of the pregnancy have been divulged just yet, a source close to the couple reveals that the baby is due in the spring.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

David & Victoria Beckham Are Expecting!

Exciting news from David and Victoria Beckham - the UK couple are expecting their 4th child!

A rep for the footballer and his designer wife confirmed the pregnancy to PEOPLE: "David and Victoria Beckham are delighted to confirm they are expecting their fourth child in the summer. Brooklyn, 11, Romeo, 8, and 5 1/2-year-old Cruz are very excited about the arrival of their new brother or sister."

The 36-year-old star thanked fans this morning for their well wishes.

She wrote on her Twitter page: "Thank u so much for your kind and beautiful messages!!!we are all so happy and very excited!!!!!!x vb x"

The former Spice Girl-turned-fashion designer has often hinted at her desire for a daughter.

But in recent months she has been more circumspect – even telling the forthcoming issue of Vogue in which she is cover star: "Maybe one day another baby, but at this stage I think the chances of a girl are quite slim."

Last month, David spoke publicly of his love for his wife after winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

He said: "Of course, I want to thank my wife and my children. Not only has she given me three amazing boys... she is truly an inspiration for me every single day."

Congratulations to David, Victoria and family!

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Fetuses Able to See Light Outside the Womb


A fetus might learn to see before it is born. So much light penetrates a pregnant woman's tummy that her fetus may develop vision in the final two months of pregnancy.

We have long known that fetuses can smell, taste and hearMarco Del Giudice at the University of Turin in Italy wondered if there was enough light present for them to see, too.

He measured the amount of light that could penetrate through to a typical woman's uterus and found that in a naked woman, about 0.1 to 1 per cent of ambient light would get in (Developmental Psychology, DOI: 10.1002/dev.20506).

In bright sunlight, a fetus could receive light equivalent to that found in a typically lit house.

Princess Mary Of Denmark Welcomes Twins!

Denmark's Crown Princess Mary has given birth to twins - a boy and a girl - the royal court announced Saturday.

The palace said Mary has become the proud mother of "two fine children" at the national Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen.

"Both mother and children are doing well," the court said.

The boy, weighing 5 pounds, 14 ounces (2.7 kilograms) was the first one born Saturday morning, while his sister, weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces (2.6 kilograms), was delivered 26 minutes later.

The 38-year-old princess was admitted to hospital early Saturday morning, accompanied by her husband Crown Prince Frederik, who was present during the whole labor.

"It's a miracle," the smiling father told Danish broadcaster TV2 and other media at the hospital. "It's two small hearts to keep an eye on."

Tasmanian-born Mary married the Danish prince in 2004. The couple already have two children, 5-year-old Christian and 3-year-old Isabella.

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