Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Emily Deschanel Expecting First Child [People]

Study: Identical twins don’t have identical genes [gantdaily]

Neglectful and controlling parents linked to mental health problems [Phsyorg]

Vegan breastfeeding: A deadly crime? [The Week]

Acetaminophen in Pregnancy: Link to Baby's Asthma? [WebMD]

Drop in U.S. birth rate is the biggest in 30 years [LA Times]

1 in 5 US moms have babies with multiple dads, study says [MSNBC]

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia: A common birth defect [Anchorage Press]

Certain purchases from Babies "R" Us may involve you in a class action settlement [PR Newswire]

Six of the most common labor complications [FitPregnancy]

Preterm Birth Drug Price Leveled by FDA

Makena is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone and has been used to prevent the onset of preterm labor since 2003. The drug was recently given FDA-approval after years of being sold without it. Unfortunately, along with the approval came one drug company that tried to monopolize the right to produce the drug, causing a price increase from $15-$20 per dose to $1,500. Thankfully, the outrage expressed by doctors and consumers has prompted the FDA to ensure that cheaper doses of the drug are still available.

The March of Dimes initially celebrated the news that the only preterm drug on the market was finally FDA-approved and being produced by a trustworthy company, which would mean more consistent and reliable quality. However, the price hike sent the organization reeling, since the drug itself is fairly cheap to produce. In fact, Makena has been produced in small pharmacies for years and sold at $15-$20 per dose. For women who have given birth early in the past, Makena can be used from the 16th week of pregnancy to prevent spontaneous preterm labor. If the drug costs $1,500 an injection, the standard treatment lasting 20 weeks would cost $30,000.

Apparently, upon FDA-approval, KV Pharmaceutical paid for worldwide rights to sell the drug, a high-priced transaction that is probably the reasoning behind the price hike. The company began sending cease and desist letters to the pharmacies that produced the drug cheaply. Once the news broke about the drug’s price increase, online pundits and medical professionals shared their mutual anger. As a result, the FDA has publically declared that small pharmacies can continue producing the drug at a cheaper price. KV will still be making the drug as well and may be intent on keeping their high price of $1,500 a dose.

The March of Dimes estimates that approximately 10,000 women a year could prevent spontaneous preterm labor by using Makena.

Have you experienced preterm labor?

Preemie birth preventive spikes from $10 to $1,500 [Associated Press]
FDA to allow cheaper preterm baby drug [Washington Post]

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three Forms of Exposure to Cigarette Chemicals Bad for Babies

Most pregnant women are well aware of the dangers of smoking while pregnant but new studies are also showing the negative consequences of being around others who smoke. In most cases, the risks from being around another smoker will be negligible, but for women who live with smokers, some new house rules may be in order.

The effects of smoking during pregnancy are well-documented; preterm birth, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage are just a few possible consequences. In addition, babies born to smokers have a heightened risk for respiratory problems, heart defects, cancer and behavioral problems. Nicotine gum and patches may be safe alternatives to quitting cigarettes cold turkey.

In the last two decades, the dangers of smoking have been revealed at an incredible pace. Among the newly revealed risks are second-hand and third-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is the unfiltered, bluish-gray smoke coming from the end of the cigarette. Third-hand smoke is the residue left on a person who has recently smoked a cigarette. A recent study revealed that exposure to second-hand smoke from 10 or more cigarettes a day raises the risk of birth defects and stillbirth. However, third-hand smoke is particularly insidious because no matter what measures you take to remove the smell of cigarettes from your person, the chemicals remain and babies absorb them at a greater rate than adults. A study of smokers and their babies found that babies who merely slept in the same room with a smoker parent had three times the amount of nicotine in hair samples than babies who slept in another room.  Higher levels of nicotine in babies have been linked to SIDS in previous studies.

For pregnant women and new mothers, quitting smoking is an obvious choice but these recent studies reveal how important it may be for their partner to quit too.

Does your partner smoke?

Pregnant women: Secondhand smoke can harm your unborn baby [CNN]
Smoking during Early Pregnancy May Put Baby's Heart at Risk [BusinessWeek]
Babies who sleep with smoker parents exhibit high nicotine levels [ChemInfo]
Nicotine Linked to SIDS [UPI]
Third-hand smoke a danger to babies, toddlers [MSNBC]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best of the Web: Parenting and Pregnancy Links

Eva Herzigova Welcomes Son Philip [People]

Many Mums given risky parenting advice [BBC News]

Cord Blood Cures Baby’s Grapefruit-Sized Tumor [Fox News]

Radiation Risks for Pregnant Women, Unborn Children: Questions and Answers [Bloomberg]

Review of Herbal Remedies for Colicky Babies [MedPage Today]

10 Ways to Cloth Diaper on a Budget [BlogHer]

Pregnant Olympian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep still expecting gold [The Star]

Intersex Babies: Boy or Girl and Who Decides? [ABC News]

FDA Weighs Food Dye, Hyperactivity Link [Health]

Duration of Breastfeeding Linked to Baby Brain Growth

Mothers who have struggled with breastfeeding will be happy to hear the latest news: longer breastfeeding is linked to larger brains. The World Health Organization currently recommends breastfeeding for two years.

A study published this week, led by Professor Robert Burton at Durham University, studied 128 groups of mammals including humans. The researchers learned that the longer offspring gestated and spent time suckling, the larger their brains would grow. For example, deer have brains six times smaller than humans and their gestation period is seven months (instead of nine) with six months of suckling.

This isn’t the first time that science has found a link between breastfeeding and intelligence. A handful of studies have revealed slightly higher IQ’s in breastfed children. A study published earlier this month discovered that breastfed children did better  on tests in language, reading, writing and math into the adolescent years. The newest study’s authors emphasize that their study does not make any conclusions on what affect formula has on the size of the brain and doesn’t reveal whether any component of breast milk is behind the growth.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 77 percent of babies in the United States are breastfed initially but less than 50 percent of babies are breastfed by the time they reach six months of age. Hopefully, these new findings will encourage more mothers to continue breastfeeding for longer.

How long do you plan to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding in the United States: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2006 [CDC]
Breastfeeding is linked to the size of the brain [Telegraph]
Brain Size and Intelligence: Does Size Matter? [Discovery Health]
The Effect of Breastfeeding on Children’s Cognitive Development [ISER]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SIDS Prevention Leading to Flat Heads in Babies

In 1992, the Back to Sleep campaign was launched to prevent the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Almost 20 years later, the rising number of babies with deformational plagiocephaly, otherwise known as "flat head syndrome," has aroused concern from pediatricians that always putting babies on their back to sleep may have some undesirable consequences.

Deformational plagiocephaly occurs when continued pressure is put on a baby’s head, leading to a flat spot. There is no known treatment for the condition but some medical professionals argue that none is needed – that it will work itself out over time. For severe cases, most pediatricians recommend putting a helmet on the baby’s head. Helmets theoretically leave enough space for the child’s head to continue forming even if they are lying down, although there are no studies that support this conclusion. Not all infants will develop deformational plagiocephaly and some are more prone to it, such as babies born with torticollis, a condition affecting the newborn’s neck. The bones of the skull are soft during the first year of a baby’s life and start to harden around the one year mark, so resolving deformational plagiocephaly is necessary before a baby’s first birthday. Studies are underway to determine if flat head syndrome causes any neurological problems, but it’s believed that the long-term effects are purely aesthetic.

To prevent flat heads, parents are now encouraged to continue putting babies on their back to sleep, but advised to change the positioning of the head once the baby is asleep. For example, if the baby has lolled the head to the left while sleeping, the parent can simply shift the position of the head to the right. Parents are also encouraged to put babies on their tummies under supervision.

The Back to Sleep Campaign has been extremely effective, lowering the rate of SIDS by 40 percent. However, deformational plagiocephaly and a lack of tummy time are both unexpected side effects of the campaign. To ensure your baby’s head and posture develop normally, regular supervised tummy time is recommended.

Do you know anyone with “flat head syndrome”?

Head Deformity Ignites Debate among Baby Experts [Fox News]
SIDS Rate: Decrease Seen, but More Can be Done [KidsGrowth]
Babies Need More ‘Tummy Time’ [PWBlog]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vitamin B12 in the Womb Reduces Risk of Colic

Anyone who has had a colicky baby can attest to the great lengths they have gone to in order to calm the constant crying. While colic has no known long-term effects on a child's life, it provides a tot-sized nightmare for many parents. The cause of colic is unknown and only experimental treatments such as gripe water are thought to ease it. A new study however, suggests that vitamin B12 could be at the root of colic and encourages pregnant women to consume higher amounts of the vitamin in order to avoid having a colicky baby.

Vitamin B12 is found in most prenatal supplements but it is best absorbed in the body through consuming fish, meat and dairy. The vitamin is known to be beneficial for the development of the brain and nervous system in developing babies. The study, completed by researchers from Public Health Service in the Netherlands, reveals a decreased incidence of colic in babies whose mothers consumed adequate amounts of B12 in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Three thousand pregnant women were involved in the study and asked to give blood for researchers to monitor their B12 levels, and then newborns were observed after birth for the number and length of times they cried. The babies of women who had the least amount of B12 in their blood were eight times more prone to crying. Researchers hypothesize that stunted growth of the nervous system could be to blame.

Despite the study’s findings, more research is needed and medical professionals are worried that the results will lead women to add more unhealthy fats in their diet, such as the saturated fat present in some steaks. When searching for healthy B12 sources during pregnancy, stick to low-mercury fish and lean meats. Milk, fortified cereal, tofu, sea vegetables and eggs are also healthy ways to add more B12 to your diet. Pregnant women are advised to get 2.6 micrograms of B12 in their diet each day – one serving of a cereal fortified with 100% of the daily value of B12 provides 6 mcg; a four ounce piece of salmon, snapper, trout, or beef tenderloin provides more than 2.6 mcg. One egg provides 0.6 mcg and one cup of low-fat yogurt provides 1.38 mcg.

Do you think you are getting enough B12 during your pregnancy?

Want a calm baby? Increase intake of food rich in vitamin B12--study [The MedGuru]
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12 [National Institutes of Health]

Stems Cells as Treatment for Brain Injuries

Currently, there is no known treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI), a condition that approximately 1.7 million people sustain each year, but a new study reveals the potential for a patient's own stem cells to significantly improve their neurological health.

The study, published in the March issues of Neurosurgery, reviewed the use of bone marrow to treat pediatric traumatic brain injury. It is the first published trial using mononuclear cells (MNC’s), one’s own cells, to treat traumatic brain injury, and focused on children because they are one of the most likely groups to experience TBIs. The goal of the trial was to establish the safety of the experimental treatment, which it did; in addition, researchers also reported other exciting results. Patients treated with their own bone marrow stem cells showed preservation of brain structures as well as improvement in cognitive functioning, processing speed, working memory (listening skills), fine motor skills and declarative memory (verbal skills). No adverse events were reported.

Another study of the healing potential of cord blood stem cells was begun in early 2011. This FDA-regulated trial entails follow-on research on the use of cord blood cells to treat traumatic brain injuries. The use of one’s own cells to treat this kind of problem bypasses the risk of blood-borne disease transfer, cell rejection, and graft vs. host disease. 

Do you know anyone who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury?

Study Published in Neurosurgery Demonstrates Safety of Stem Cell Therapy for Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury [The Stem Cell Source]
Ground-Breaking Clinical Trial Using Cord Blood to Treat Brain Injuries [PWBlog]
Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury [CDC]