Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

See How Tracy Anderson Keeps Celebrity Moms-to-Be in Shape [lilsugar]

Baby foods may not provide adequate levels of micro-nutrients: Study [Nutra]

Toddlers tend to follow the crowd: study [nzherald]

Depression and baby sleep: Vicious cycle? [CNN]

How I Went from a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby [Jezebel]

Kelly Preston is not giving her baby the Scientology 'formula' [Celebitchy]

Can 'Genius' Be Detected in Infancy? [HuffPo]

Daya Vaidya Expecting Identical Twin Boys [People]

Women less likely to take risks around babies (even if it's not theirs) [DailyMail]

Baby No. 5 on the Way for Taylor Hanson [People]

Preparing for the Pain of Childbirth

The pain of childbirth is one of the most daunting questions in the mind of a mother-to-be. The way movies and the media present the event as the most painful experience in a reproducing woman's life- it's no wonder that many women become scared. The best way to arm yourself against this pain is to know what's causing it, how to cope with it and what your options are.

The pain of labor is caused when the muscles of the uterus contract to help stretch open the cervix, both the contractions and the stretching can cause pain. As the uterus contracts, oxygen is cut off to the organ for short periods of time, another cause of labor pain. The size and the position of the baby can also cause pain, particularly when the baby’s head puts pressure on the bowels and bladder. Stress during labor will cause more pain by increasing the body’s “fight or flight” response. The adrenaline from this biological response can cause the uterine muscles to force the cervix to contract shut, which can stall labor as well as cause more pain. When the baby’s head finally descends, women often refer to this moment as the “ring of fire.”

The feeling of childbirth is different for each woman and for each birth. First time mothers usually report the most pain. One study has indicated that younger women, the use of synthetic Oxytocin to induce, and a history of menstrual cramps are related to the level of pain some women experience. Women have used words such as “cramping,” “shooting,” “throbbing,” “pressing,” and “sharp aching” to describe the pain. For some women childbirth feels a lot like menstrual cramps. It can resemble cramps often associated with diarrhea as well. For many it just feels like intense pressure. The pain can radiate anywhere from the back, to the legs, the sides, and the groin but can also be accompanied by an all-over achy feeling. The pain or pressure will vary in intensity. The sensations are often repetitive and they can vary in duration. Some women will describe them as “waves” of intense pressure. Most contractions last from 30-60 seconds. The amount of pain can be strongly tied to the amount of stress or anxiety you feel.

It is important to prepare yourself as much as possible for pain during labor, but keep an open mind too, especially if you are a first time mom. Ask your doctor about regular exercise during pregnancy. If your body is in good physical shape before going into labor, you will be more likely find that you have endurance and the muscle tone to facilitate an easier birth experience. Even if you aren’t physically in shape, kegel exercises can be an indispensable tool to prepare for labor and require little effort. Kegels work on the very muscles you use during labor and can protect against urinary incontinence.

Part of taking care of your body and getting it into shape includes eating a nutritious diet and drinking lots of water. If you are deficient in vitamins and minerals it can increase the pain and effort of labor. As most athletes know, becoming dehydrated when your body is undergoing physical rigors is detrimental to your muscles and tissues and decreases endurance.

The physical body isn’t the only thing that needs to be prepared for labor to reduce pain.
Prepare yourself emotionally by learning as much as you can about the birthing process. Fear of the unknown can intensify pain. Know what is normal and what is not. Be prepared for “back labor” which is caused by the positioning of the baby and would be more painful. Hire a doula or find a close friend or family member who has given birth and can help coach you through the pain. The support of a doula has been associated with better pain management in laboring women, shorter labors and a decreased use of medical interventions.

There are many ways that you can try to manage labor pain naturally. Hypnosis is an option, either using self-hypnosis or having someone else hypnotize you. Different breathing techniques like rhythmic breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help your labor go smoother, whereas, holding your breath can intensify pain. Water birth or just laboring in a tub can significantly reduce labor pain. Empty your bladder frequently. Massage the lower back and upper thighs and find out which acupressure points could be used. Use hot and cold packs, a tennis ball, or frozen water bottle to massage. Use a birth ball. Listen to music. Walk or sway. Use visualization techniques.

What you want to do during labor to help reduce pain is entirely up to you. Many women report that changing positions during labor helps tremendously. Changing positions can shorten the length of labor and reduce the need for medical intervention.

Different positions for laboring:

  • On hands and knees.
  • Squatting
  • Side-lying
  • Upright or Standing
Taking a childbirth class is a great way to prepare your mind for labor. There are many techniques that you can learn before labor to help you with the process and most hospitals host classes:

  • Lamaze
  • Bradley Method
  • Hypnosis or “Hypno-birthing”
  • Massage
  • Meditation and Yoga
  • McMoyler Method
In a hospital setting, you will most likely be offered some kind of pain relief. The most commonly used pain relief during childbirth is the epidural. The epidural is a regional anesthesia that blocks nerve sensations in specific regions of the body. The epidural lowers blood pressure, which could be beneficial for women who have preeclampsia. Analgesics like morphine provide pain relief for the whole body and are often utilized when labor is expected to last for a long time. Tranquilizers sedate the mother without changing her receptivity to pain. They can sometimes be used in addition to analgesics.

All of the pain relief options have some side effects. Epidurals or regional anesthesia are generally the safest for the mother and the baby but they can stall labor, cause a drop in heart rate, nausea and severe headaches. Analgesics can cause nausea and vomiting. They can often pass to the baby and result in drowsiness and nausea. Demerol has been found to interfere with breastfeeding when used for labor. Tranquilizers should be used with caution because they can have some serious effects on both the mother and the baby and can hinder the mother’s ability to remember her experience.

The best way to face the impending pain of labor is to have a basic idea of what you are in for. Face it with the knowledge that your body was made to give birth. Do not be afraid. Some women report having painless births by being relaxed and practicing many of the methods mentioned above. Find the methods that best suit your personality and be open to changes should things not be what you expected. Above all, remember that the pain you experience in labor is different than most pain you will experience; instead of it alerting you to something going wrong, it is bringing your baby into the world.

Are you preparing for the pain of childbirth?

Dealing With the Pain of Childbirth [KidsHealth]
Childbirth Classes [PregnancyWeekly]
Choosing the Right Comfort Measures for Labor [BirthingNaturally]
Sources of Pain During Labor and Birth [Childbirth]
Pain During Childbirth [MidwifePDF]
Best Labor and Birth Positions [GivingBirthNaturally]
Understanding Labor Pain [Parents]
Pain Relief During Labor and Birth [MidwifeInfo]

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a term used for neurological disorders that cause a loss of muscle control in the body. It often effects voluntary muscle movements and can present itself with stiff or tight muscles, exaggerated reflexes, involuntary movement, difficulty swallowing, difficulty speaking or muscle tone that is too flabby. Around 8000 infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. The condition is not hereditary and not communicable.

The condition is usually present at birth but symptoms may not be noticeable until after weeks or even years later. 70% of cerebral palsy cases occur before birth. 20% of cases occur during the birthing process. The exact cause is usually unknown. In the US 10% of children develop cerebral palsy after birth. Some children might develop cerebral palsy from infections of the brain or a head injury. However, the condition is usually present before birth due to a malformation of the brain.

There are certain risk factors for developing cerebral palsy:
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • seizures
  • placental inabilities concerning oxygen and nutrient distribution
  • absence of certain growth factors in-utero
  • Rh or blood type incompatibility between mother and child
  • viral infection or disease in the mother during pregnancy
  • bacterial infection of the mother during pregnancy
  • prenatal exposure to certain chemicals
  • prolonged loss of oxygen
  • severe jaundice after birth
Between 5-8% of infants that weigh less than 3 pounds develop cerebral palsy. Mothers older than 40 years old are more likely to have a child with cerebral palsy. Mothers and fathers under 20 years old are more likely to have a child with the condition. African American’s are more likely to as well.  One of a pair of twins, especially if one of the twins dies, is more likely to have cerebral palsy. If multiple risk factors are present, the incidence of cerebral palsy rises accordingly.

Prevention is possible. If women are tested during their pregnancy for Rh factor, they can be immunized 72 hours after the birth of their child to prevent problems associated with blood incompatibility for future pregnancies. Babies with jaundice can be treated with light therapy in the hospital nursery. Women can become immunized against measles before becoming pregnant. Pregnant women and people close to them should take steps to avoid infections and illness. Bacterial infections during pregnancy should be identified and treated right away. Diabetes should be closely monitored and controlled. Anemia and other nutritional deficiencies should be addressed. All pregnant women should receive good prenatal care. Measures should be taken to prevent premature birth. Avoid contact with cat feces that can cause toxoplasmosis. Avoid raw meat. Infants should be protected against head injuries.  

There are three different types of cerebral palsy and a mixture of these types could be present. Spastic and athetoid are the most common combination:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy occurs in 70-80% of patients. Muscles are permanently contracted and stiff. Doctors use a Latin word for the body parts affected followed by “plegia” or “paresis”, meaning “weak” or “paralyzed.” This type of cerebral palsy can be followed by a period of poor muscle tone in the infant.
  • Athetoid or dyskinetic cerebral palsy occurs in 10-20% of patients. Uncontrolled, slow, writhing movements characterize this type. The movements appear awkward and usually affect the extremities and sometimes the face and tongue – causing excessive drooling. Emotional stress can encourage the awkward movements and they disappear during sleep. Problems speaking (dysarthia) could also present themselves.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy occurs in 5-10% of patients. Balance and depth perception are primarily affected. It can cause poor coordination. Affected patients could walk with an unusually wide gait or unsteadily. They could have trouble attempting quick, precise movements like writing and buttoning a shirt. They could experience an intention tremor – where tremors increase in the moving body part as it gets closer to its destination.
Babies are usually exhibiting signs of cerebral palsy before 18 months of age. Babies who don’t cry in the first five minutes after birth could be suffering from the condition. Babies who need to be on a ventilator for the first four weeks of their life are more likely to have developed it. Malformations of certain organs can be an indicator. A baby could seem floppy and have flaccid muscle tone or the opposite could occur – overly tight or stiff muscles. They could favor one side or exhibit unusual posture. The baby might have a high-pitched, abnormal sounding cry. The baby could tremble in the arms and legs. He might have staring spells, eye fluttering and body twitching. Parents should contact their pediatrician if they have any suspicions concerning these events. It can be hard to differentiate between normal developmental delays and a developmental disorder.

A doctor will diagnose cerebral palsy through a variety of ways. He will test the baby’s motor skills and reflexes. He will examine the mother’s medical history. Babies with cerebral palsy sometimes hang on to the Moro reflex past 6 months of age, when it usually disappears. The reflex causes the baby to make a gesture similar to embracing when held on the back with feet in the air. In the first year of a baby’s life a hand preference is not developed yet, so the doctor will also see if the child chooses to use one hand over the other even when it is more convenient to use the less favored hand.  The doctor will also have to determine if the child’s problems are progressively getting worse – which would indicate a different problem. The diagnosis could take over 1 year to make, which can be frustrating for parents. A child who seems to develop cerebral palsy from some type of accident could exhibit signs of cerebral palsy but return to normal over time.
The severity of cerebral palsy varies considerably. Some children might require lifelong care, be unable to walk, or unable to speak. Some children might only require a little assistance walking and others might just seem a bit awkward but have no invasive problems present. Cerebral palsy can be accompanied by other disorders such as seizures, vision or hearing problems, attention deficit disorder, dental problems, urinary incontinence, other learning disabilities, or mental impairment. 

Cerebral Palsy is considered a permanent condition but through therapy and some experimental treatments, abilities can improve. The earlier management of the disorder begins – the better. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can help to elicit improvement in the condition throughout the child’s life. The child might also require seizure medication and muscle relaxants (to control spasms and relieve pain). Surgery might be utilized to release overly tight muscles. Wheelchairs, rolling walkers and voice synthesizers could be called for. As the child grows older, the opportunity for independence and societal inclusion becomes more important. Programs for assisted living, job opportunities, leisure programs and educational or vocational training can make a world of difference for them. 
Research is ongoing for cerebral palsy. Injections of a child's own umbilical cord blood during a study conducted at Duke University have been promising for a handful of children. The study aims to follow 40 children over a period of 2 years. Authorities on cerebral palsy are being cautious before declaring success because the study is still so limited. 

If you have a child with cerebral palsy, there are organizations and support groups that can help you on the difficult journey that you are on. Reach out to other parents of children with cerebral palsy. They can often provide resources, ideas, and emotional support. Doctors and nurses will be able to point you in the right direction as well. Having a child with cerebral palsy requires a lot of work and care. Rest assured that most people with cerebral palsy can go on to live fairly normal lives. As with any child, love and encouragement from parents can help the child to flourish and reach their highest potential. Please visit or for more information on the condition and support. 

Do you know anyone with cerebral palsy?

NINDS Cerebral Palsy Information Page [NINDS]
Cerebral Palsy - Facts & Figures [UCP]
Cerebral Palsy Program/Guide [Nemours]
Cerebral palsy [MayoClinic]
Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy [About Cerebral Palsy]
Cord Blood Stem Cells and Cerebral Palsy – Duke University - Part 2 [Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawyer Blog]
Cord blood: A weapon against cerebral palsy? [LATimes]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer are Expecting!

True Blood stars Anna Paquin(29) and Stephen Moyer (42) are expecting their first child together. A rep. for the couple told People that Paquin is expecting to give birth this fall.

Moyers and Paquin have been married since 2010, they met on the set of the HBO show. Moyer has two children from a previous relationship, Lilac (10) and Billy (12).

Paquin is best known for her role in The Piano, which she won an Oscar for when she was just 11-years-old.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Do you watch True Blood?

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer Expecting a Baby [People]

Best of the Web: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Baby can't stop laughing at vacuum! [YouTube]

Melissa Joan Hart Expecting Third Child [People]

Australian Company Gives New Mom a Maternity Bonus [Jezebel]

Should kids go vegan? [Today]

Robert Downey Jr. on Fatherhood [CelebBabyScoop]

With no doctor in sight, dad takes delivery into his own hands [kens5]

Extraordinary recovery of heart surgery toddler who's a natural in the pool [DailyMail]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prenatal Depression: New Findings Complicate Treatment Options

Women suffering from clinical depression are faced with conflicting advice when it comes to treating their illness during pregnancy. Research leading up to 2011 re-iterated that although medication such as Zoloft and Prozac carried some risk to the developing baby, that it was worth it for expectant mothers to continue taking their medication. More recently, however, the issue has become much more complicated. Studies have shown that the effects of taking antidepressants may be about as risky for expectant mothers as not taking them, making the choice to continue taking antidepressants one that must be carefully weighed.

A study released early this year discovered that women who suffer from depression are more likely to have babies with smaller heads and bodies, even if they took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, the babies of depressed mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy also experienced slower head growth. Dr. Hanan El Marroun studied three groups of pregnant women: group one did not experience symptoms of depression, group two was comprised of women exhibiting severe depression symptoms and group three took SSRIs to keep depression at bay during their pregnancies. The babies were observed using ultrasound technology every three months. The babies of the mothers who were not depressed noticeably grew faster than the babies in groups two and three. The babies of the mothers in group three (the SSRI group) had bodies that were growing at a normal rate, but their heads were developing slower than group one's babies. Hanan explains the need for further study:
"The fetus has a mechanism that ensures that the development of the brain is not disrupted under poorer conditions. If, for example, there is a shortage of nutrition or oxygen, the skin and liver are affected first, sparing the brain. The fact that exposure to SSRIs affect the growth of the head and not the body means that SSRIs are specifically harmful to the developing brain. The long-term effects will have to be investigated further."
Hanan's research re-asserts findings from animal studies: "SSRIs can cross the placenta and disrupt the serotonin balance. Serotonin is important for the growth of the developing brain. Animal testing has already shown that this disruption can have an adverse effect on the development of the brain."

Recent research has also revealed that women who take SSRIs during pregnancy are more likely to experience high blood pressure and preeclampsia, potentially causing a host of other issues for developing babies and their mothers. A study in 2006 had previously found that babies of mothers on SSRIs in the second trimester were more likely to be born with hypertension.

Other studies have found that SSRIs increase the risk of birth defects and many law firms have jumped on this finding, telling mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy that have babies with birth defects to come see them for free.

Although only 6% of pregnant women take antidepressants, they are still one of the most commonly used drugs during pregnancy and with an increasing body of evidence stacking up against their safe use during pregnancy, some women may want to look elsewhere for treatment. A study published late last year at Yale University discovered that pregnant women who forewent antidepressant medication did not experience an increased number of depressive episodes. Mainstream advice that women stay on their medication compensates for the fact that women suffering from depression are less likely to take good care of themselves. Missing meals, skipping prenatal care and other depressive reactions could lead to other problems for the baby that overshadow problems antidepressants can cause. Only you and your doctor can confidently make the call whether it's in your best interest to stop taking medication for depression.

Do you take antidepressants?

Slow Brain Growth In Babies Linked To Depression During Pregnancy [MedicalNewsToday]
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy might pose health risks for your baby — but stopping might pose risks for you. Get the facts about antidepressants and pregnancy. [MayoClinic]
The Onder Law Firm Updates Zoloft Birth Defects Website with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Information [seattlepi]
Pregnant and on Prozac? Watch out for high blood pressure [theglobeandmail]
Stopping Meds During Pregnancy Does Not Increase Risk of Depression [HealthNewsDigest]

Monday, April 16, 2012

Featured Babies of the Week

Every week we feature the best baby photos sent to us through our Babies of the Week contest. We receive photos from parents from all over the world. Here are a few of our favorites:

Abigail was born last July and is from Louisiana. Dad says, "She is our pride and joy, in September she had open heart surgery to correct three murmurs and her pulmonary artery... She had bounced back to her normal silly self within just a couple of weeks! She is a survivor and as we like to think one of the cutest kids we have even seen!"

Jaedia is seven months old in this picture. Mom calls her her "little princess."

Zac loves food, getting into things, climbing and playing with his two older brothers.

Kara Marie was born last July and is five months old in this picture. She loves to laugh and smile and her big brother loves to make her laugh. Mom says, "Her coming into our lives has been a true blessing."

Gofa-One was born in October. Mom says, "When you play with him he'll always give you that wonderful smile that takes all your burdens away.  His determination to get what he wants and his never say die attitude is a blessing. He likes to imitate whatever his 5yrs old brother is doing, that's so cute. He's a real blessing to our family."

Thanks to all the parents who sent us their pictures. You can see the rest of the featured photos on the front page of BabyWeekly. To enter your baby picture for the Baby of the Week contest, please click here. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, it may take many months before your baby's photo is featured.

Fetal Development - Week 32 (Video)

Your baby is just under 17 inches long from head to heel and weighs almost 4 pounds. He or she will gain weight more quickly now and will probably double in weight between now and his or her birth.
Just like a newborn, your baby sleeps most of the time. He or she even experiences rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the period of sleep when we dream!

This week marks the peak of your baby's movements; from now until delivery he or she will have very little room to move around and you will probably notice a marked decrease in kicks, punches, and rolls.