A Glass of Wine for Better Behaved Kids?

A study published last month from BJOG (an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) reported a link between women who drank moderately in the early months of pregnancy, and the behavior of their children years later. And what do you think they found? Well, they discovered that women who had 2-6 drinks per week early in their pregnancy tended to have children with more positive behavior than women who didn’t drink at all.

How’d they come up with that? And does it mean anything?

They enlisted 2900 women to provide data at 18 and 34 weeks of gestation on weekly alcohol intake: no drinking, occasional drinking (up to one standard drink per week), light drinking (2–6 standard drinks per week), moderate drinking (7–10 standard drinks per week), and heavy drinking (11 or more standard drinks per week).

Then, their children were followed up at ages 2, 5, 8, 10 and 14 years, using a standard checklist to measure behavior.

“This positive behavior meant that the children of light and moderate drinkers had less emotional and behavioral problems through childhood and adolescence,” Dr. Monique Robinson, from Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth, Western Australia, told Reuters Health.

If this report has you jumping out of your chair to pour yourself a glass of wine, you might want to stop and think about it for a moment. Good behavior is great, but the study addresses nothing relating to cognitive abilities or general health. It also seems to me that measuring something like “positive behavior” is incredibly subjective.

As one eloquent commenter at iVillage said:  “Maybe they are less emotional because the brain cells are dead.”

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks excessive alcohol during pregnancy.  Fetal alcohol exposure is the leading known cause of mental retardation in the Western world.  The current recommendation of both the US Surgeon General and the UK Department of Health is not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.  (Wikipedia)

Remember, while an occasional glass of wine may or may not have an affect on your unborn child, no amount of alcohol is proven safe for consumption during pregnancy. Sacrificing your baby’s mental and physical health for good behavior seems very silly indeed.

Treating Ear Infections: Forgo the Antibiotics

Contrary to what we’ve been told up to now, antibiotics may not be the best medicine for your child’s ear infection!  A recent study in the British Medical Journal has shown that treating with antibiotics can actually increase the chances of relapse!  So what is the best medicine? Possibly no medicine at all!

CBS News reports that more than 75 percent of kids before the age of 5 have an ear infection, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Ear infections have routinely been treated with antibiotics, but now, new research suggests the best medicine may be no medicine at all.  There is substantial evidence to show that about 80 percent of ear infections clear up without antibiotics, and with no ill effects.

What you may not have known is that most ear infections are caused by viruses, which are not treatable with antibiotics anyway.”  Everyone involved may have to work on their patience, but letting the ear infection run its course may be your best option.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is about to update its guidelines. The new “rules” will say that unless the child is very young or very sick, a doctor should employ “watchful waiting” — monitoring the child’s health. Your doctor might prescribe a safety net antibiotic prescription (SNAP) to be filled only if the child has not improved within 48 to 72 hours.

However, current guidelines suggest that some children should still get antibiotics:

• Are under age 2
• Appear seriously ill with fever of 102F or higher
• Have fluid dripping from the ears
• Have a double ear infection (both ears infected)

If you still don’t believe your child’s ear infection will heal best on its own, you should be aware of some side effects caused by antibiotic. The most serious side effect, she said, is antibiotic resistance.  In about 10 to 20 percent of children, Ashton said, antibiotics can cause upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea. Less frequently, they can cause rashes.

You want to avoid over-use of antibiotics to avoid antibiotic resistance, which makes the next bug tougher to treat. The next time your doctor prescribes amoxicillin, the most common one for kids, it might not work. Doctors would be wise to head this new research, but in 84 percent of cases, they still prescribe antibiotics.  It may be up to  parents to decide that antibiotics may not be the best medicine, and forgo.

“Pediatricians are now focusing on pain relief,” CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said. “Children screaming in pain will not get relief from an antibiotic in the first 24 hours. They should be given ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), and sometimes prescription ear drops can ease the pain.”

**Side Note: I only had one experiences with ear infections when my daughter was a baby, a few years ago. The doctor gave me a choice of antibiotics or a homeopathic remedy. I decided to try the homeopathic remedy, and it worked wonderfully. The ear infection may have gone away on it’s own, but the pain subsided very quickly and gave us no more problems!

Can doctors predict Postpartum Depression?

If you could find out while pregnant that you had a tendency toward postpartum depression,it could be a real lifesaver, literally. You would be able to prepare for it in advance, identify and deal with the symptoms, and make sure you have the help you need to stay healthy and properly care for your new baby.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum Depression is a common psychological side-effect of childbirth. As many as one in five new mothers in the U.S. experiences postpartum depression shortly after childbirth, leading to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Another seven percent of women battle major depression after giving birth. If not properly diagnosed and treated, postpartum depression can lead new mothers to attempt suicide, neglect or even harm their newborns.

Can it really be predicted?

But now, researchers at the University of California, Irvine said they can fairly accurately predict which women will later suffer from postpartum depression, using a simple blood test. This type of screening test could one day become part of a woman’s standard prenatal care, along with the gestational diabetes screen, which is typically performed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

This would work by measuring the level of a hormone produced by the placenta around the 25th week of pregnancy.  The study found that women with higher levels of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) midway through pregnancy were more likely to develop postpartum depression. The blood test correctly identified 75% of those who had future postpartum depression symptoms.

In pregnant women, the placenta pumps out 100 times more CRH than is normally produced by the hypothalamus. The hormone has been nicknamed the “placental clock” because it is thought to prepare the woman’s body for childbirth, said psychologist Ilona Yim, who worked on the study.

Levels of CRH and other hormones drop after the mother gives birth, which Yim said causes hormone “withdrawal” that can create havoc with the endocrine system.

“It puts the whole system out of whack,” she said in a telephone interview. (Reuters)

Other risk factors for postpartum depression include a history of depression or premenstrual syndrome, stress and anxiety during pregnancy, a lack of social support, and fluctuating hormone levels. The presence of high levels of CRH in the body triggers a variety of reactions, including an increase in the production of stress hormones, like cortisol. This can lead to the development of mental disorders, such as severe depression.

While antidepressant drugs can sometimes relieve postpartum depression, Yim urged a preventive approach, such as having at-risk women learn relaxation techniques common in prenatal yoga classes, and bolstering the emotional ties they may need. (Reuters)

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention… If doctors really can predict and watch for postpartum depression, it seems that could save many families much grief. It will be intereting to see what comes of this important study!

Pregnancy Brain: Is it a just a myth?

I’ve always said that being pregnant has been the ruin of what used to be an extraordinary intelligence– mine, that is. I used to be smart. Really. I was always at the top of the class. I figured things out. I was sharp. Clever. Witty. But ever since I had kids, I find it hard to think, sometimes, to find the right words.  I can’t remember how old I am. I don’t remember birthdays or other significant events, and sometime I’m not even sure what day of the week it is.

The bad news is that the so-called “pregnancy brain” may not really exist. According to The Australian, “A team at the Australian National University found that the memory and brain functioning speed of mothers and pregnant women were no different from those of childless women.”

So I guess I’m just loosing it. Maybe this is what happens as we age. But twenty-six– er, twenty-seven, is young to start feeling senile, don’t you think?

At least I’m not alone. Paula Kruger from ABC feels the same way: “I myself, being four months pregnant, could not remember the name of my four-year-old son this morning.  I could think of several names for the pet Labrador, especially given he’d stolen another slice of jam toast off the bench-top.  But to remember my own son’s name, I had to take a moment and a deep breath.  So you could imagine my confusion on hearing that scientists at the ANU have found the widely held belief that pregnancy and motherhood can turn a woman’s mind to mush is actually myth.”

According to Professor Helen Christensen from the ANU’s Centre for Mental Health Research, “it’s a miss-attribution of a normal cognitive function lapse.” That’s great.  So am I really just getting old? Could be. But she also attributes this pregnant “dippiness” to things such sleep deprivation and fatigue, which makes me feela little bit better, although I’m not sure why. Aks me again after I’ve had a full night’s sleep…

New Study Confirms Link between Smoking and SIDS

If you are planning to get pregnant, or already are pregnant, you know that one of the most important things you can do for your child is to quit smoking. For a while now, doctors have been warning that smoking during pregnancy is likely to increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). But now, a new study provides the most direct evidence yet.

The new study, reported on by Science Daily, appears in the first issue for June of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society.

“Our results provide some of the most direct evidence to date suggesting that prenatal cigarette smoke exposure can contribute to the destabilizing effects of hypoxia [inadequate oxygenation of the blood] and thermal stress on neonatal breathing,” said Dr. Hasan.

That the effects of second-hand cigarette smoke are damaging is well known. But according to this study, the effects were much more pronounced when a fetus was exposed to cigarette smoked prenatally.

“Our results show that prenatal cigarette smoke exposure compounds the risk by increasing the likelihood of gasp-like respiration and prolonging the time that it takes for neonates to return to normal breathing following hypoxia,” said Dr. Hasan. “These observations provide important evidence of how prenatal cigarette smoke exposure, hypoxic episodes and hyperthermia might place infants at higher risk for SIDS and further support efforts to foster prenatal smoking cessation programs.”

To read the details of this study, please refer to Science Daily: Smoking During Pregnancy Increases Risk of SIDS.

Acupuncture may be linked to success in IVF

acupuncture500.jpgCall me queasy, but to be quite honest, the thought of someone sticking me all over with needles is kind of… well…  scary. But acupuncture might be good news for people trying to get pregnant through IVF (in-vitro fertilisation).

The authors of the study cautiously describe their findings as “preliminary evidence” that  acupuncture may “improves rates of pregnancy and live birth” among women undergoing IVF.

The idea behind this study is that acupuncture stimulates the flow of blood to the uterus, thereby making the lining of the womb more receptive to the implantation of the embryo.

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