Women/Prenatal/Infant2

Longer Maternity Leaves Lower Women's Risk of Postpartum Depression

Dec. 12, 2013 —

Science Daily/University of Maryland

The more leave time from work that a woman takes after giving birth -- up to six months -- the better protected she will be from experiencing post-partum depression, according to a study led by Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

 

"In the United States, most working women are back to work soon after giving birth, with the majority not taking more than three months of leave," Dr. Dagher said. "But our study showed that women who return to work sooner than six months after childbirth have an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms." The study is published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

 

The first year after childbirth presents a high risk of depression for women, with about 13 percent of all mothers experiencing postpartum depression, with debilitating symptoms similar to clinical depression. This study is the first to investigate the relationship between duration of maternity leave and a woman's postpartum depressive symptoms over the course of the entire year after childbirth. It measured symptoms using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a widely used depression screening tool, which has been adapted and validated in many languages.

 

The study concludes that "the current leave duration provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act, 12 weeks, may not be sufficient for mothers at risk for or experiencing postpartum depression" and that future leave policy debates should take into consideration the postpartum health of mothers. Moreover, "employers should consider providing more generous leaves than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave granted by the FMLA through expanding the duration of leave given or providing paid leave or both," urged Dr. Dagher.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131212100140.htm

Exercise Alleviates Sexual Side-Effects of Antidepressants in Women

Dec. 10, 2013 —

Science Daily/University of Texas at Austin

Exercise can benefit health and improve mood, and now new research shows that it has the potential to restore sexual desire and function in women adversely affected by sexual side effects related to antidepressant use.

 

New psychology research, which could have important public health implications for alleviating some side effects of antidepressants, shows that engaging in exercise at the right time significantly improves sexual functioning in women who are taking the antidepressants.

 

The study, published online in Depression and Anxiety, shows that sexual dysfunction can be effectively treated with an inexpensive, non-invasive prescription of moderately intense workouts.

 

The results showed that 30 minutes of exercise just before intercourse can reduce the effect of the libido-dulling drugs. They were based on the participants’ self-reported assessments of their sexual functioning, satisfaction and psychological health before and after each experiment. They also reported each sexual event in online diaries.

 

According to the findings, committing to a regular exercise routine improved orgasm function in all women. However, those who exercised immediately before sex experienced significantly stronger libidos and overall improvements in sexual functioning.

 

Moderately intense exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system, which facilitates blood flow to the genital region. Antidepressants have been shown to depress this system. Scheduling regular sexual activity and exercise may be an effective tool for alleviating these adverse side effects, Lorenz says.

 

“Considering the wide prevalence of antidepressant sexual side effects and the dearth of treatment options for those experiencing these distressing effects, this is an important step in treating sexual dysfunction among women who are taking antidepressants,” Lorenz says

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210120700.htm

Good Relationships Make Women More Satisfied with Their Weight

Dec. 5, 2013 —

Science Daily/British Psychological Society (BPS)

Women who are in a satisfying relationship are more likely to be satisfied with their body weight.

 

Sabina Vatter found that women who were satisfied with their relationship also tended to be more satisfied with their body weight whether or not they were at their "ideal" weight. Such women also had higher self-esteem and lower self-consciousness.

 

"These findings suggest that our satisfaction with body size, shape and weight has more to do with how happy we are in important areas of our lives, like our romantic relationships, than it does with what the bathroom scales say."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205220035.htm

Depression in pregnant mothers may alter the pattern of brain development in their babies

December 4, 2013

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2013/12/131204090956-large.jpg

Science Daily/Elsevier

Depression is a serious mental illness that has many negative consequences for sufferers. But depression among pregnant women may also have an impact on their developing babies.

 

Children of depressed parents are at an increased risk of developing depression themselves, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. These children also display alterations in the amygdala, a brain structure important for the regulation of emotion and stress.

 

This study provides added evidence supporting the notion that mental health screening should be included among the medical evaluations that women undergo when they discover that they are pregnant. Indeed, the authors conclude that their study supports that "interventions targeting maternal depression should begin early in pregnancy."

 

"Attention to maternal health during pregnancy is an extremely high priority for society for many reasons," added Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "The notion that maternal depression might influence the brain development of their babies is very concerning. The good news is that this risk might be reduced by systematic screening of pregnant women for depression and initiating effective treatment."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131204090956.htm

Children significantly more likely to develop PTSD if mother afflicted

- November 27, 2013

Science Daily/American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

While fewer than 10 percent (8.4 percent) of the mothers were suffering from PTSD, more than a fifth (21 percent) of their children presented PTSD symptoms in a recent study on the topic. Children who developed PTSD symptoms also had more psychosomatic complaints such as constipation, diarrhea and headaches.

 

In the study published in the Journal of Depression & Anxiety, while fewer than 10 percent (8.4 percent) of the mothers were suffering from PTSD, more than a fifth (21 percent) of their children presented PTSD symptoms. Children who developed PTSD symptoms also had more psychosomatic complaints such as constipation, diarrhea and headaches.

 

"This study reinforces the existing body of knowledge regarding the importance of evaluating and treating parental responses in time of stress," the researchers explain.

 

"Parents are often the key to understanding children's responses generally and specifically in times of stress. The study also highlights the close interrelations between 'body and soul' among children and adults."

 

In the study, some 160 mothers of preschool children were interviewed about symptoms exhibited by their children and their own responses during Operation Cast Lead. More than 750 rockets were fired into Southern Israel from Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009.

 

Working with the Preschool Psychiatric Unit at Soroka University Medical Center, the BGU researchers examined the relationship between PTSD symptoms and socio-demographic, family attributes and psychosomatic symptoms among children exposed to Grad missile attacks in Beer-Sheva, Israel.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127110607.htm

PTSD raises risk for obesity in women

- November 20, 2013

Science Daily/Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gain weight more rapidly and are more likely to be overweight or obese than women without the disorder, find researchers. It is the first study to look at the relationship between PTSD and obesity over time.

 

One in nine women will have PTSD at sometime over the course of their lifetime -- twice as often as men. Women are also more likely to experience extreme traumatic events like rape that carry a high risk for the disorder.

 

"PTSD is not just a mental health issue," says study senior author Karestan Koenen, PhD, Mailman School associate professor of Epidemiology. "Along with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, we can now add obesity to the list of known health risks of PTSD."

 

"The good news from the study is that it appears that when PTSD symptoms abate, risk of becoming overweight or obese is also significantly reduced," says first author Laura D. Kubzansky, PhD, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health. However, despite the growing evidence of potential far-reaching problems associated with PTSD, it's estimated that only half of women in the United States with the disorder are ever treated. "Hopefully, wider recognition that PTSD can also influence physical health will improve this statistic, leading to better screening and treatments, including those to prevent obesity," says Dr. Kubzansky.

 

Normal-weight women who developed PTSD during the study period had 36% increased odds of becoming overweight or obese compared with women who experienced trauma but had no symptoms of PTSD. The higher risk was evident even for women with sub-threshold symptoms levels and remained after adjusting for depression, which has also been proposed as a major risk factor for obesity. In women with PTSD that began prior to the study period, body mass index increased at a more rapid pace than women without PTSD.

 

The observed effect of PTSD on obesity is likely stronger in the general population of women than in nurses, notes Dr. Koenen. "Nurses are great for studies because they report health measures like BMI with a high degree of accuracy. But they are also more health conscious and probably less likely to become obese than most of us, which makes these results more conservative than they would otherwise be."

 

Symptoms of PTSD rather than the trauma itself seemed to be behind the weight gain. "We looked at the women who developed PTSD and compared them to women who experienced trauma but did not develop PTSD. On the whole, before their symptoms emerged, the rate of change in BMI was the same as the women who never experienced trauma or did experience trauma but never developed symptoms," says Dr. Kubzansky.

 

How exactly does PTSD lead to weight gain? The biological pathway is unknown, but scientists have a number of guesses. One is through the over-activation of stress hormones. PTSD may lead to disturbances in functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system, each of which are involved in regulating a broad range of body processes, including metabolism.

 

Another is through unhealthy behavior patterns that may be used to cope with stress. Ongoing research is looking at whether PTSD increases women's preference for processed foods and decreases their likelihood of exercising.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131120192339.htm

Mental Stress, Heart Disease: Stronger Presence in Women Under 50

Nov. 20, 2013 —

Science Daily/Emory Health Sciences

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2013/11/131120111954-large.jpg

 Researchers have found that women younger than 50 with a recent heart attack are more likely to experience restricted blood flow to the heart (myocardial ischemia) in response to psychological stress.

 

Among study participants older than 50, there were no significant sex differences in mental stress-induced ischemia;, however, men older than 50 had a rate of exercise-induced ischemia that was twice as high as women of a similar age.

 

"This is the first study to examine the cardiovascular effects of psychological stress as a possible mechanism for the greater mortality after myocardial infarction among younger women," says study leader Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health.

 

"We saw a dramatic difference in mental stress-induced ischemia specifically in younger women. In addition, when ischemia was graded in a continuous way, we saw that it was twice as severe among the younger women."

 

Women who experience a heart attack before age 50 are relatively rare, suggesting that perhaps those who do simply have more severe heart disease. However, even when investigators adjusted for different rates of traditional heart disease risk factors such as smoking and diabetes, the disparity remained. In fact, women tended to have less severe coronary artery disease, measured by examining the degree of blockage in their coronary arteries.

 

One possible explanation the Emory investigators considered was a higher burden of psychosocial stress, Vaccarino says. In the study, the younger women were more often poor, of minority race, with a history of sexual abuse and with higher levels of depressive symptoms.

 

Heart rate goes up in response to physical or psychological stress, but the beats also become more evenly spaced. Heart rate variability is a measure of how much moment-to-moment fluctuation is present; higher heart rate variability is a marker of a more flexible, and thus healthier, autonomic system.

 

In the MIMS study, younger women had their heart rate variability dip more in response to stress, compared to men the same age. This is additional evidence that young women after a heart attack may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of psychological stress on the heart.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131120111954.htm

Depression in pregnancy: preferences for therapy over medication

- November 18, 2013

Science Daily/Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Women with depression in the perinatal period experience a high degree of conflict in deciding whether and how to treat their depression, but strongly prefer treatments other than antidepressant medications, reports a study.

 

Women with perinatal depression were younger, had lower socioeconomic status, and were more likely to be single than nondepressed participants. Depressed women also had increased levels of anxiety and greater impairment in marital/family relationships -- underscoring the need for treatment.

 

Although about 70 percent of the depressed women received some form of depression treatment during pregnancy, they often reported conflictual feelings concerning depression treatment decisions during pregnancy. Indeed, one-third experienced a high degree of uncertainty and confusion. Women who were more uncertain about their treatment decisions had higher levels of depression, and were less likely to engage in treatment.

 

Strong Concerns About Antidepressant Drugs during Pregnancy

Some depressed women expressed positive feelings about treatment. However, as in previous studies, women were more likely to prefer non-drug treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and alternative therapies.

 

Many women said they would consider using antidepressant medications during pregnancy only as a "last resort." Concerns included fear of possible adverse effects on the developing baby, including withdrawal symptoms, premature delivery, and childhood learning problems; feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion about using antidepressants during pregnancy; and the potential for the infant becoming dependent on these medications.

 

All of the women in the study -- regardless of depression status -- were asked about their preferences for treatment if they were to experience an episode of postpartum depression. Most said that they would prefer some form of psychotherapy over medication, expressing concerns about possible effects of antidepressant exposure through breast milk. Again, the women strongly preferred alternative treatments.

 

Given women's concerns about using antidepressants, it's important to increase awareness regarding effective non-drug treatments for depression during pregnancy, Dr Battle and coauthors believe. They call for further studies of all possible options for treatment of perinatal depression, including medications, specific forms of psychotherapy, and alternative treatments such as yoga, exercise, and light therapy.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131118091416.htm

Exercise during pregnancy gives newborn brain development head start

- November 10, 2013

Science Daily/Universite de Montreal

As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week during pregnancy enhances the newborn child’s brain development, according to researchers. This head-start could have an impact on the child's entire life.

 

"Our research indicates that exercise during pregnancy enhances the newborn child's brain development," explained Professor Dave Ellemberg, who led the study. "While animal studies have shown similar results, this is the first randomized controlled trial in humans to objectively measure the impact of exercise during pregnancy directly on the newborn's brain.

 

We hope these results will guide public health interventions and research on brain plasticity. Most of all, we are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child's future." Ellemberg and his colleagues Professor Daniel Curnier and PhD candidate Élise Labonté-LeMoyne presented their findings today at the Neuroscience 2013 congress in San Diego.

 

Not so long ago, obstetricians would tell women to take it easy and rest during their pregnancy. Recently, the tides have turned and it is now commonly accepted that inactivity is actually a health concern. "While being sedentary increases the risks of suffering complications during pregnancy, being active can ease post-partum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children," Curier explained.

 

"Given that exercise has been demonstrated to be beneficial for the adult's brain, we hypothesized that it could also be beneficial for the unborn child through the mother's actions."

 

To verify this, starting at the beginning of their second trimester, women were randomly assigned to an exercise group or a sedentary group. Women in the exercise group had to perform at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week at a moderate intensity, which should lead to at least a slight shortness of breath. Women in the sedentary group did not exercise. T

 

he brain activity of the newborns was assessed between the ages of 8 to 12 days, by means of electroencephalography, which enables the recording of the electrical activity of the brain. "We used 124 soft electrodes placed on the infant's head and waited for the child to fall asleep on his or her mother's lap. We then measured auditory memory by means of the brain's unconscious response to repeated and novel sounds," Labonté-LeMoyne said.

 

"Our results show that the babies born from the mothers who were physically active have a more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131110204330.htm

Exercise during pregnancy improves vascular function of offspring into adulthood

- October 24, 2013

Science Daily/Wiley

Exercise during gestation has the potential to program vascular health in offspring into their adulthood, in particular significantly altering the vascular smooth muscle.

 

The current guidelines for pregnant women recommend thirty minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most if not all days of the week. Unfortunately, not all physicians are yet convinced that exercise is beneficial for both the pregnant women and their offspring.

 

The results of this study provide evidence that maternal exercise during pregnancy is a powerful programming stimulus in the arteries of the offspring and that this programming may have implications for future cardiovascular disease susceptibility of the offspring.

 

"Our study was the first to demonstrate that maternal exercise during pregnancy significantly impacts vascular function in adult offspring."

 

"A second important aspect of the findings in our study is that previous research identified the endothelium, which is the single-cell layer lining all blood vessels, to be susceptible to foetal-programming interventions. Contrarily, we show that the vascular smooth muscle was significantly altered in adult offspring from exercise trained mothers."

 

"We are only starting to understand how exercise during gestation influences offspring adult health and disease. Results like ours may help to create guidelines enabling women to make the best decisions for them and their children by providing evidence based health choices.

 

"Physical activity may act through multiple pathways which depend on type, duration, intensity and frequency of the exercise regimen. Furthermore, it is essential that future research investigates the coronary circulation and also establishes what impact these reported changes in vascular function in the offspring have on cardiovascular disease susceptibility."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024220916.htm

Infertility problems? Eating tips to boost fertility

October 17, 2013

Science Daily/Loyola University Health System

Women who watch their weight and closely follow a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and beans may increase their chance of becoming pregnant.

 

"Establishing a healthy eating pattern and weight is a good first step for women who are looking to conceive," said Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, LUHS. "Not only will a healthy diet and lifestyle potentially help with fertility, but it also may influence fetal well-being and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy."

 

Thirty percent of infertility is due to either being overweight or underweight, according to the National Infertility Association. Both of these extremes in weight cause shifts in hormones, which can affect ovulation. Reducing weight by even 5 percent can enhance fertility.

 

Schantz recommends the following additional nutrition tips for women who are looking to conceive:

-Reduce intake of foods with trans and saturated fats while increasing intake of monounsaturated fats, such as avocados and olive oil

 

-Lower intake of animal protein and add more vegetable protein to your diet

 

-Add more fiber to your diet by consuming whole grains, vegetables and fruit

 

-Incorporate more vegetarian sources of iron such as legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains

 

-Consume high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy

 

-Take a regular women's multivitamin

 

Approximately 40 percent of infertility issues are attributed to men, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Among them is low sperm count and poor sperm motility, which are common in overweight and obese men.

 

"Men who are looking to have a baby also have a responsibility to maintain a healthy body weight and consume a balanced diet, because male obesity may affect fertility by altering testosterone and other hormone levels," Schantz said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131017173358.htm

Researchers test biofeedback device in lowering grandmothers' stress

October 7, 2013

Science Daily/Case Western Reserve University

In a pilot study, 20 grandmothers were able to lower their stress levels with a biofeedback device that tracks breathing patterns.

 

Looking at ways to reduce such negative factors, the nursing school's Jaclene A Zauszniewski, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN; Tsay-Yi Au, PhD, RN; and Carol Musil, PhD, RN, FAAN, tried biofeedback techniques that focus on heart rate variability (HRV) to reduce stress, negative emotions and depressive thoughts and help grandmothers cope with the added responsibilities.

 

While the study was small, it showed promise in that self-reported stress and negative thoughts were reduced during and after using the device.

 

The researchers report their findings in the article, "Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback in Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren: Effects on Stress, Emotions and Cognition," in the special issue of Biofeedback from the Association for Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback.

 

The grandmothers used the device at home for four weeks. They were taught to insert their left index finger into the sensor clip on the devise that detects their pulse rate and, while doing so, to inhale and exhale slowly while observing waves on the device's screen. Thus, over time, they learn to coordinate their breathing with their heart rate.

 

The first significant improvement came two weeks after using the device, and also at eight and 14 weeks. The researchers suggest that the noticeable reduction in stress warrants a larger study.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131007151831.htm

Five regular meals a day reduce obesity risk among adolescents

- October 3, 2013

Science Daily/University of Eastern Finland

A regular eating pattern may protect adolescents from obesity, according to a population-based study with more than 4,000 participants. When eating five meals - breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks - a day, even those with a genetic predisposition to obesity had no higher body mass index (BMI) than their controls.

 

The collection of the data on the study population began prenatally, and the participants were followed up until the age of 16. The aim was to identify early-life risk factors associated with obesity, to investigate the association between meal frequencies, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and to examine whether meal frequency could modulate the effect of common genetic variants linked to obesity. The genetic data comprised eight single nucleotide polymorphisms at or near eight obesity-susceptibility loci.

 

According to the results, a regular five-meal pattern was associated with a reduced risk of overweight and obesity in both sexes and with a reduced risk of abdominal obesity in boys. Moreover, the regular five-meal pattern attenuated the BMI-increasing effect of the common genetic variants. Conversely, skipping breakfast was associated with greater BMI and waist circumference.

 

Obese parents increase the risk

Maternal weight gain of more than seven kilograms during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy increased the risk of obesity in the offspring. However, maternal obesity before pregnancy was a more important risk factor than weight gain during pregnancy.

 

Paternal obesity before pregnancy was nearly as important as maternal pregravid obesity as a risk factor for the offspring obesity during adolescence. The risk of obesity was strikingly high in adolescents whose both parents had a BMI of 25 or over throughout the 16-year follow-up period.

 

"These findings emphasise the importance of taking an early whole-family approach to childhood obesity prevention. Furthermore, it is important to be aware that the effects of predisposing genotypes can be modified by lifestyle habits such as regular meal frequency," says Ms Anne Jääskeläinen, MHSc.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003095450.htm

Yoga in menopause may help insomnia -- but not hot flashes

+ September 27, 2013

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2013/09/130927183207-large.jpg

Science Daily/Group Health Research Institute

Taking a 12-week yoga class and practicing at home was linked to less insomnia -- but not to fewer or less bothersome hot flashes or night sweats. The link between yoga and better sleep was the only statistically significant finding in this randomized controlled trial.

 

"Many women suffer from insomnia during menopause, and it's good to know that yoga may help them," said lead author Katherine Newton, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute. She e-published these findings in Menopause, ahead of print.

 

"Hormone therapy is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for hot flashes and night sweats," Dr. Newton said, "and fewer women are opting for hormone therapy these days." That's why MsFLASH tried to see whether three more "natural" approaches -- yoga, exercise, or fish oil -- might help ease these menopause symptoms. The study assigned 249 healthy, previously sedentary women at multiple sites, including Group Health, to do yoga, a moderate aerobic exercise program, or neither -- and to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo.

 

Exercise seemed linked to slightly improved sleep and less insomnia and depression, and yoga also was linked to better sleep quality and less depression -- but these effects were not statistically significant. The omega-3 supplement was not linked to any improvement in hot flashes, night sweats, sleep, or mood.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130927183207.htm

Diet during pregnancy and early life may affect children's behavior and intelligence

- September 13, 2013

Science Daily/University of Granada

The statement "you are what you eat" is significant for the development of optimum mental performance in children as evidence is accumulating to show that nutrition pre-birth and in early life "programs" long term health, well being, brain development and mental performance and that certain nutrients are important to this process.

 

Researchers looked at the effect of, B-vitamins, folic acid, breast milk versus formula milk, iron, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, on the cognitive, emotional and behavioural development of children from before birth to age nine.

 

The study has found that folic acid, which is recommended in some European countries, to be taken by women during the first three months of pregnancy, can reduce the likelihood of behavioural problems during early childhood. Eating oily fish is also very beneficial, not only for the omega-3 fatty acids they which are 'building blocks' for brain cells, but also for the iodine content which has a positive effect on reading ability in children when measured at age nine.

 

A long-term study was needed as explained by Professor Cristina Campoy, who led the project "Short term studies seem unable to detect the real influence of nutrition in early life," explained Prof Cristina Campoy, "NUTRIMENTHE was designed to be a long-term study, as the brain takes a long time to mature, and early deficiencies may have far-reaching effects. So, early nutrition is most important."

 

Many other factors can affect mental performance in children including; the parent's educational level, socio-economic status of the parents, age of the parents and, as discovered by NUTRIMENTHE, the genetic background of the mother and child. This can influence how certain nutrients are processed and transferred during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in turn, affect mental performance.

 

In giving advice to parents, Cristina Campoy explained, "it is important to try to have good nutrition during pregnancy and in the early life of the child and to include breastfeeding if possible, as such 'good nutrition' can have a positive effect on mental performance later in childhood." She went on to explain, "however, in the case of genetics, future studies should include research on genetic variation in mothers and children so that the optimum advice can be given. This area is relatively new and will be challenging!"

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913101815.htm

Poor sleep in pregnancy can disrupt the immune system, cause birth complications

July 17, 2013

Science Daily/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Poor sleep quality and quantity during pregnancy can disrupt normal immune processes and lead to lower birth weights and other complications, a new study finds. Women with depression also are more likely than non-depressed women to suffer from disturbed sleep and to experience immune system disruption and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

 

"Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior," said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt's School of Medicine and lead author of the report. "The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions."

 

Adequate and high-quality sleep, both in pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as men, is essential for a healthy immune system. Pregnancy often is associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. These disturbances can exacerbate the body's inflammatory responses and cause an overproduction of cytokines, which act as signal molecules that communicate among immune cells.

 

"There is a dynamic relationship between sleep and immunity, and this study is the first to examine this relationship during pregnancy as opposed to postpartum," added Dr. Okun.

 

The findings reveal:

·      Women with depression and poor sleep are at greatest risk for adverse birth-related outcomes. Cytokine levels may be one biological pathway through which this is accomplished, particularly with regard to preterm birth.

·      Any shift in immunity, such as poor sleep and/or depression, could set the stage for increased risk for adverse outcomes.

·      At 20 weeks, depressed pregnant women have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines compared to non-depressed women.

·      At 30 weeks of pregnancy, differences in cytokines among depressed and non-depressed women were negligible, likely because as pregnancy progresses, levels of cytokines normally increase.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130717164725.htm

Link Between Stress and Increased Incidence of Psychosomatic Symptoms

- June 3, 2013 —

Science Daily/University of Gothenburg

In four out of ten cases, long-term stress suffered by women leads to some form of physical complaint. This is shown by a study of 1,500 women carried out at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

 

Among those women who reported stress, 40 percent had psychosomatic symptoms in the form of aches and pain in their muscles and joints, 28 percent suffered from headaches or migraines, and the same proportion reported gastrointestinal complaints.

 

"Even when the results have been adjusted for smoking, BMI and physical activity, we can see a clear link between perceived stress and an increased incidence of psychosomatic symptoms," says Dominique Hange, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

 

Of those women who experienced long-term stress but who did not report any stress-related problems when the study began in 1968-69, 27 percent had new symptoms in the form of muscular and joint pain when they were followed up 12 years later, and around 15 percent experienced new complaints in the form of headaches and/or gastrointestinal problems.

 

"The most important conclusion is that single women, women who do not work outside the home and women who smoke are particularly vulnerable to stress. Here, we see a greater need for preventive measures from society."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603092450.htm

Flame retardants, used in everyday products, may be toxic to children: Lower intelligence, hyperactivity seen

May 6, 2013

Science Daily/American Academy of Pediatrics

Chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers have been used for decades to reduce fires in everyday products such as baby strollers, carpeting and electronics. A new study shows that prenatal exposure to the flame retardants is associated with lower intelligence and hyperactivity in early childhood

 

"In animal studies, PBDEs can disrupt thyroid hormone and cause hyperactivity and learning problems," said lead author Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "Our study adds to several other human studies to highlight the need to reduce exposure to PBDEs in pregnant women."

 

"We found maternal exposure to PBDEs, a group of brominated flame retardants mostly withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2004, was associated with deficits in child cognition at age 5 years and hyperactivity at ages 2-5 years," Dr. Chen said. A 10-fold increase in maternal PBDEs was associated with about a 4 point IQ deficit in 5-year-old children.

 

Even though PBDEs, except Deca-BDEs, are not used as a flame retardant in the United States anymore, they are found on many consumer products bought several years ago. In addition, the chemicals are not easily biodegradable, so they remain in human tissues and are transferred to the developing fetus.

 

"Because PBDEs exist in the home and office environment as they are contained in old furniture, carpet pads, foams and electronics, the study raises further concern about their toxicity in developing children," Dr. Chen concluded.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130506095403.htm

 

Sustained Stress Heightens Risk of Miscarriage

- Apr. 8, 2013 —

Science Daily/American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Several studies have examined the impact of stress on a pregnancy -- both chronic stress, such as workload, and acute stress associated with traumatic events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They conclude that stress can lead to adverse birth outcomes, including miscarriage and premature birth.

 

Following the pregnancies of women from the Israeli town of Sderot, which is constantly under threat of rocket bombings from Gaza, and women from nearby Kiryat Gat, which is outside of Gaza's rocket range, the researchers demonstrated that those living under rocket fire were 59 percent more likely to miscarry than their neighbors.

 

Within the exposed group, the researchers also analyzed the intensity of exposure. Not every neighborhood in Sderot was subject to the same number of attacks, notes Prof. Lerner-Geva, and the researchers originally hypothesized that women in higher stress areas would have a higher probability of miscarriage. However, the results indicate that women in both high-intensity and low-intensity areas were at the same risk. One explanation is that the constant fear of attack is as stressful as the attacks themselves, she concludes.

 

Prevention through intervention

One advantage that healthcare providers have in dealing with populations under constant threat is that they can make use of early intervention, says Prof. Lerner-Geva. "Most of the Sderot pregnant women receive prenatal care through community health clinics. This presents an opportunity to run preventive interventions to reduce stress or even provide one-on-one counseling."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408133917.htm

Stressful Life Events May Increase Stillbirth Risk

- Mar. 27, 2013 —

Science Daily/NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Pregnant women who experienced financial, emotional, or other personal stress in the year before their delivery had an increased chance of having a stillbirth, say researchers who conducted a National Institutes of Health network study.

 

Non-Hispanic black women were more likely to report experiencing stressful events than were non-Hispanic white women and Hispanic women. Black women also reported a greater number of stressful events than did their white and Hispanic counterparts. This finding may partly explain why black women have higher rates of stillbirth than non-Hispanic white or Hispanic women, the researchers said.

 

"We documented how significant stressors are highly prevalent in pregnant women's lives," said study co-author Marian Willinger, Ph.D., acting chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of two NIH entities funding the research. "This reinforces the need for health care providers to ask expectant mothers about what is going on in their lives, monitor stressful life events and to offer support as part of prenatal care."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327133702.htm

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