Every day in the United States, millions of expectant mothers take a prenatal vitamin on the advice of their doctor.
The counsel typically comes with physical health in mind: folic acid to help avoid fetal spinal cord problems; iodine to spur healthy brain development; calcium to be bound like molecular Legos into diminutive baby bones.
But what about a child’s future mental health? Questions about whether ADHD might arise a few years down the road or whether schizophrenia could crop up in young adulthood tend to be overshadowed by more immediate parental anxieties. As a friend with a newborn daughter recently fretted over lunch, “I’m just trying not to drop her!”
Yet much as pediatricians administer childhood vaccines to guard against future infections, some psychiatrists now are thinking about how to shift their treatment-centric discipline toward one that also deals in early prevention.
In 2013, University of Colorado psychiatrist Robert Freedman and colleagues recruited 100 healthy, pregnant women from greater Denver to study whether giving the B vitamin choline during pregnancy would enhance brain growth in the developing fetus.
Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue, but here are a few more:
1. The high black infant mortality rate: Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. So when I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean. And it is not up for debate or commenting. This is the only reason I have ever needed to do this work, but I will continue with the list anyway.
10 procedures to think twice about during your pregnancy
Despite a healthcare system that outspends those in the rest of the world, infants and mothers fare worse in the U.S. than in many other industrialized nations. Infants in this country are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as those in Japan and Finland. And America now ranks behind 59 other countries in preventing mothers from dying during childbirth and is one of only eight countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and El Salvador, whose maternal mortality rate is rising.
Why? Partly because mothers in the U.S. tend to be less healthy than in the past, “which contributes to a higher-risk pregnancy,” says Diane Ashton, M.D., deputy medical director of the March of Dimes.
But another key reason may be that medical expediency appears to be taking a priority over the best outcomes. The U.S. healthcare system has developed into a labor-and-delivery machine, often operating according to its own timetable rather than the less predictable schedule of mothers and babies. Keeping things chugging along are technological interventions that can be lifesaving in some situations but also interfere with healthy, natural processes and increase risk when used inappropriately.
(click link at the top to read on Consumerreports.org)
Babies get a lot from their mothers. But babies born by cesarean section don’t pass through the birth canal and miss out on the benefits from picking up Mom’s microbes on the way out.
Researchers studying the human microbiome have asked: Could there be a way to fix that? If so, it might help restore the microbes a baby naturally gets that help fight off disease and foster normal development.
A small study published Monday in Nature Medicine provides tantalizing evidence that it may be possible.
How? By slathering babies just after birth with a gauze pad that soaked up the microbes in their mothers’ birth canal right before birth.
When I read the January 11thNew York Times Well blog, titled When A Big Baby Isn’t So Big, I looked back on my career as a labor nurse and thought, “Yep – happens all the time.” Predictions for a “too big baby” were among the most common reasons I heard from women admitted to my labor unit for induction of labor or scheduled cesarean sections. In most cases, once the baby was delivered, either vaginally or surgically, they weren’t all that big after all.
The New York Times blog is centered around a recent study based on Childbirth Connection’s national survey of 1,960 new mothers, called Listening to Mothers III. The survey indicates that four out of five mothers who were warned they might have large babies gave birth to infants who were not large, and weighed less than 8 pounds 13 ounces (which defines macrosomia – a larger than average baby). These mothers were almost twice as likely to have interventions like medical induction of labor or attempt to self-induce labor, presumably so their baby wouldn’t get too big to deliver vaginally. They were also nearly twice as likely to have planned C-sections, though as the blog mentions, researchers say that increase fell just short of being statistically meaningful.
(click link to read the blog on the Every Mother Counts website)