Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Victoria Beckham's Full Term Baby Bump [CelebrityBabyScoop]

Natalie Portman Named Her Baby Boy Aleph [People]

Casey Anthony Verdict Spurs a New 'Caylee's Law' [People]

Who's on the Family Tree? Now It's Complicated [NYTimes]

5 Maternity Pieces Worth Buying [Babble]

Fathers create toys that combine outdoor play, online excitement []

Fathers taught to turn babies into gym equipment [newslite]

UK's new "win a baby" game draws fire [Reuters]

Bow Wow Tells Fans: I'm A Dad! [CelebrityBabyScoop]

Things I Have Cried at Due to Pregnancy Hormones [thehairpin]

25 Free Dress Tutorials for Babies and Toddlers [Babble]

NASCAR drivers promote banking cord blood [LaTimes]

New Studies Narrow-in on Causes of Autism

Two new studies are challenging the notion that autism is attributed to genetics alone. One study confirmed that environmental factors might hold more weight than genetics in determining which children will develop autism. Another study has linked taking antidepressants during pregnancy to the increasingly prevalent condition.

Approximately one percent of people in the developed world are believed to have some form of autism and the number of people diagnosed with the condition continues to rise. Researchers have been hard-pressed to find the cause of autism, especially after many parents were led to believe that vaccinations were to blame. The only solid information that scientists have gathered in the past few years is that some people are genetically more susceptible to develop autism than others. 

In order to find out whether genetics or environment play a bigger role in the development of autism, researchers studied 192 pairs of identical and fraternal twins. One twin in each pair had the classic form of autism. Identical twins share the exact same genes and fraternal twins share 50% of the same genes, which enabled scientists to tease out whether genetics or environmental factors were behind the child’s autism. After examining the data, scientists determined that 38% of cases of autism were largely genetic but found that 58% could only be explained by environmental influences. The researchers declined to point out any specific environmental factors.

Nevertheless, another study may have discovered at least one possible environmental cause. Women taking antidepressants during the year before delivery appear to have an elevated risk of giving birth to a child with autism. However, the researchers note that the percentage of women taking SSRI’s such as Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa who went on to have autistic children was still very low. Only 2.1 percent of mothers who took antidepressants the year before delivering their child had babies with autism and only 2.3 percent who took the medication in the first trimester. The scientists are not calling for pregnant women to stop taking antidepressants due to these findings.

The researchers involved in these studies are calling them “game-changers,” because the focus of autism study is shifting from genetics to environmental causes. Hopefully, the new research will bring us closer to finding the cause of autism, but in the meantime, expect lots of new studies that point to factors in the womb as possible causes.

Do you have a child with autism?

New Study Implicates Environmental Factors in Autism [NYTimes]

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Keri Russell Expecting Second Child

Keri Russell (35), former star of the hit show Felicity, is expecting her second child with husband Shane Deary! The actress is reportedly four months along. The new addition will be joining the couple's only son, four-year-old River. Russell and Dreary were married on Valentine's Day in 2007.

Russell is currently slated to start filming "Austenland," a Jane Austen-inspired film that’s being produced by Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Keri Russell Pregnant With Second Child [Popeater]

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Best of the Web: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Katie's Hoop Practice at 35 Weeks Pregnant [YouTube]

5 Wardrobe Staples for Your First Trimester [Babble]

Stopping smoking when already pregnant can boost baby's health [GuardianUK]

Scientists Discover Why More Educated Women Have Fewer Children [Jezebel]

New Study Implicates Environmental Factors in Autism [NYTimes]

Current Understandings of Postpartum Depression May Be Wrong [DigitalJournal]

5 Things I've Learned With My 1-Month-Old Baby [Babble]

Late Talkers Not at Risk for Behavior Problems Later On [WebMD]

Milk Truck Mobile Breastfeeding Vehicle [Babble]

Martha Stewart creates web series for children [TheCelebrityCafe]

Dogs Can Tell Identical Twins Apart

Parents of identical twins often have special tricks that can help them identify one child from the other. Some parents paint one child's finger nail and others will use a colored bracelet or pacifier. Even though people are often unable to tell identical twins apart, a new study reveals that well-trained dogs can sniff out the difference between them.

Even DNA tests can’t match the identity of one identical twin over the other, but after centuries of research, scientists were finally able to prove that dogs can tell identical twins apart. Scientists in the Czech Republic used trained police dogs to complete their study, since these canines are already able to pick a criminal out of a lineup just by scent. The dogs were given swabs that contained scents from the bellies of two sets of identical twins and two sets of fraternal twins. The canines sniffed the swabs and then were asked to seek out the matching scent out of seven possibilities. The dogs were able to choose the correct match every time.

The research says a lot about the enhanced sense of smell in dogs, but it does nothing to reveal what allowed the dogs to make the correct choice.  The twins used in the study came from the same environment and ate the same foods. Scientists continue to be baffled by what makes identical twins different, but clearly there is something that dogs pick up on that we do not.

How have you been able to tell identical twins apart that you’ve encountered?

Dogs can tell identical twins apart, just by scent [MSNBC]

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month

Cord Blood Awareness Month was established by a society of The American Hospital Association in an effort to better educate expectant parents on the value of their child's umbilical cord blood. This valuable source of stem cells could be used to treat a variety of different diseases.

Every year, 35,000 Americans are faced with life-threatening illnesses that require stem cell treatments. Cord blood is a painless, effective source of stem cells that is routinely thrown away after birth. In the last 20 years, cord blood has been used in over 14,000 stem cell transplants for diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia and even cancer. Today, the potential value of cord blood can't be overestimated as it could be used as treatment for juvenile diabetes, hearing loss and many other common diseases. Promising clinical trials are evaluating its use as treatment for traumatic brain injuries and cerebral palsy as well.

Banking your cord blood is easy, regardless of whether you decide to donate it to a public bank or to privately bank it for your family's use. Talk to your doctor about the banking options in your area. To learn more about the uses of cord blood and private banking, please visit the Cord Blood Education Center.

What will you do with your child's cord blood? 

Cord Blood Awareness Month [Cord Blood Registry]
Cord Blood Awareness Month is Here: Share the Value Today [The Stem Cell Source]

Monday, July 04, 2011

Babies Detect Sadness in Human Voices

If you're trying to shield your baby from negative emotions, your efforts may be in vain. A recent study has found that babies between three and seven months old are quite good at detecting emotions in the voices of adults and clue in to sad sounds over all other noises.

British researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see which parts of the brain light up in the brains of sleeping babies when exposed to different types of sounds. The babies in the study showed increased brain activity when they heard neutral sounds from people such as sneezing or coughing, more so than when they heard sounds from toys or splashing water. Babies were not only more interested in hearing the sounds of people, but they increasingly tuned in if people were making sad sounds, such as crying. Surprisingly, the areas of the brain that lit up in the babies were very similar to the areas that light up in adults when they hear the sound of another person's voice. The researchers marveled at how advanced the processing of sounds appears to be in the brains of babies. 

Previous research has shown that babies can distinguish between the voices of men, women, children and adults and that they particularly respond to the voice of the mother from birth. These findings contribute to how we understand language development in babies and lets parents know that their babies might be hearing more than they would expect. 

Does it seem like your baby knows when you're sad?

Babies are specially attuned to our voices and emotions [Eurkealert]