Women/Prenatal/Infant11

Some pregnant women don't believe cannabis is harmful to their fetus

January 21, 2019

Science Daily/University of British Columbia

Up to one-third of pregnant women do not believe cannabis is harmful to their fetus, according to a new review by UBC researchers.

 

In some cases, women perceived a lack of communication from their health care providers about the risks of cannabis as an indication that the drug is safe to use during pregnancy.

 

The findings are outlined in a new review, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, in which UBC researchers sought to identify the latest evidence on women's perspectives on the health aspects of cannabis use during pregnancy and post-partum and whether their perceptions influence decision-making about using the drug.

 

"Our research suggests that, over the past decade, more women seem to be using cannabis during pregnancy than ever before, even though evidence of its safety is limited and conflicting," said lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice and affiliate investigator at BC Children's Hospital Research Institute. "As many jurisdictions around the world, including Canada, legalize cannabis, it's becoming increasingly important for public health officials to understand perceptions of cannabis use and to increase awareness of the health concerns around its use, especially for pregnant women."

 

For the review, researchers identified six studies, all conducted in the United States, which looked at women's perceptions about cannabis use during pregnancy.

 

Across the studies, the rate of cannabis use among pregnant women varied considerably. In a large U.S. population-based study, nearly four per cent of women self-reported using cannabis within the past month, while seven per cent self-reported using cannabis within the past year. However, in another study that saw researchers also test hair and urine samples, the rate of cannabis use increased to 28 per cent.

 

Pregnant cannabis users were more likely to be under the age of 25, unemployed, single or uninsured, African American, and to have low income and education, or use other substances such as tobacco and alcohol. A diagnosis of anxiety or depression was also associated with cannabis use during pregnancy.

 

As for patterns of use, the researchers found that cannabis use rates were highest during the first trimester (7.4 per cent) and lowest during the third trimester (1.8 per cent). Most pregnant users reported using cannabis to treat nausea early in their pregnancy.

 

In one study involving 306 pregnant women, 35 per cent reported being cannabis users when they realized they were pregnant. Two-thirds of those women quit after finding out they were pregnant, but among those who continued to use cannabis, half reported using almost daily or twice a week.

 

When women were asked about their perception of general harm associated with cannabis use, 70 per cent of both pregnant and non-pregnant cannabis users responded that they perceived slight or no risk of harm. In another study, when asked if they believed cannabis is harmful to a baby during pregnancy, 30 per cent of pregnant women responded "no." When women were asked to identify substances most likely to harm the baby during pregnancy, 70 per cent chose alcohol and 16 per cent chose tobacco, while only two per cent chose cannabis.

 

While research on the health effects of cannabis is limited, some studies have shown an increased risk of problems for pregnant women, including anemia, low birth weight, stillbirth and newborn admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. Due to the risk of potential problems, many professional organizations, including the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, recommend women not use cannabis when trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

 

Still, some women reported that not having specific counselling provided about the risks of cannabis use suggest that the drug is safe.

 

"One of our review findings revealed that some people don't consider cannabis to be a drug," said Bayrampour. "With this in mind, it's especially important for health care providers to ask specific questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding to help spark a productive conversation about the potential health impacts and to help support women in their decision to reduce use and quit."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190121103421.htm

Prenatal exposure to cannabis impacts sociability of male offspring only

September 11, 2018

Science Daily/eLife

Taking cannabinoids during pregnancy can cause behavioural and neuronal deficits in adult male offspring, while females remain unaffected, says new research published in eLife.

 

The study in rats, from the Inserm and Aix-Marseille University Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology, France, and Roma Tre University, Italy, in collaboration with Indiana University, US, suggests that prenatal cannabinoid use can lead to less sociability and increased neuronal excitability in males only. The findings also point towards a potential pharmacological strategy to help reverse these effects in humans.

 

Senior author Olivier Manzoni, Inserm Research Director at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology, and Director of the CannaLab at the institute, says: "As cannabinoids can cross the placenta, they may interfere with fetal endocannabinoid signaling during neurodevelopment, which is involved in regulating a variety of processes such as pregnancy, appetite, pain sensation, and mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis. This could in turn lead to some serious long-term deficits. But despite increasing reports of cannabis consumption during pregnancy, the long-term consequences of prenatal cannabinoid exposure remain incompletely understood."

 

To fill this knowledge gap, the international collaborators examined how prenatal cannabinoid exposure influences the synaptic and behavioral functions of the medial prefrontal cortex -- a brain region often implicated in neuropsychiatric disorders -- in adult male and female rats.

 

Their results revealed that males exposed to cannabinoids while in the uterus were less sociable than normal animals, and spent less time interacting with others. Their sniffing and playing behaviors were impaired, while the number of attacks among males remained unchanged. Additionally, the researchers saw that the exposed males had a heightened excitability of pyramidal neurons in the prefrontal cortex. None of these effects were seen in females.

 

"The deleterious effects of prenatal exposure to cannabinoids on social behavior were specific to male offspring only," explains co-first author Anissa Bara, who was a PhD candidate in Manzoni's lab at the time the study was carried out. "But while social interaction was specifically impaired in males, locomotion, anxiety and cognition remained unaffected in both sexes, suggesting discrete and sex-specific behavioral consequences of cannabinoid exposure during adulthood."

 

The results also revealed that the mGlu5 gene -- an effector of endocannabinoid signaling in the prefrontal cortex -- was reduced in the exposed males' prefrontal cortex. The team discovered that amplifying mGlu5 signaling could normalise the synaptic and behavioral deficits induced by prenatal exposure to cannabinoids partly by activating the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R). Similarly, later tests also revealed that enhancing levels of anandamide (a type of endocannabinoid) in exposed males helped to restore their social deficits via CB1R.

 

"Altogether, these results provide compelling evidence for sex-specific effects of prenatal cannabinoid exposure," concludes co-first author Antonia Manduca, Inserm Postdoctoral Researcher at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology. "The fact that increasing mGlu5 signaling and enhancing anandamide levels helped to reverse the negative effects of early exposure in rats also hints at a new pharmacological strategy that could one day be trialled in humans."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180911132101.htm

Marijuana found in breast milk up to six days after use

Researchers report 63 percent of breast milk samples from mothers using marijuana contained traces of the drug

August 27, 2018

Science Daily/University of California - San Diego

To better understand how much marijuana or constituent compounds actually get into breast milk and how long it remains, researchers conducted a study.

 

With the legalization of marijuana in several states, increased use for both medicinal and recreational purposes has been documented in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Although national organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that breastfeeding mothers do not use marijuana, there has been a lack of specific data to support health or neurodevelopmental concerns in infants as a result of exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other components of marijuana via breast milk.

 

To better understand how much marijuana or constituent compounds actually get into breast milk and how long it remains, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine conducted a study, publishing online August 27 in Pediatrics.

 

Fifty-four samples from 50 women who used marijuana either daily, weekly or sporadically -- with inhalation being the primary method of intake -- were examined. Researchers detected THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, in 63 percent of the breast milk samples for up to six days after the mother's last reported use.

 

"Pediatricians are often put into a challenging situation when a breastfeeding mother asks about the safety of marijuana use. We don't have strong, published data to support advising against use of marijuana while breastfeeding, and if women feel they have to choose, we run the risk of them deciding to stop breastfeeding -- something we know is hugely beneficial for both mom and baby," said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, principal investigator of the study, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of clinical research at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.

 

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months. Early breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome and with improved immune health and performance on intelligence tests. In mothers, breastfeeding has been associated with lower risks for breast and uterine cancer and type 2 diabetes.

 

Cannabinoids -- marijuana's active compounds, such as THC -- like to bind to fat molecules, which are abundant in breast milk. This stickiness has suggested that, in women who use marijuana, these compounds can end up in breast milk, raising concerns about their potential effects on nursing babies.

 

"We found that the amount of THC that the infant could potentially ingest from breast milk was relatively low, but we still don't know enough about the drug to say whether or not there is a concern for the infant at any dose, or if there is a safe dosing level," said Chambers, co-director of the Center for Better Beginnings at UC San Diego. "The ingredients in marijuana products that are available today are thought to be much more potent than products available 20 or 30 years ago."

 

The samples of breast milk used for the study were obtained from mothers who joined the Mommy's Milk Human Milk Research Biorepository at UC San Diego, a program that focuses on looking at the numerous benefits of breast milk at the molecular level. Chambers and her research team collaborated with Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego to measure the levels of marijuana in the samples.

 

Chambers said the results are a stepping stone for future research. More studies need to be done, not only to determine the long-term impact of marijuana in breast milk for children, but more specifically: "Are there any differences in effects of marijuana in breast milk for a two-month-old versus a 12-month-old, and is it different if the mother smokes versus eats the cannabis? These are critical areas where we need answers as we continue to promote breast milk as the premium in nutrition for infants."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180827080911.htm

Prenatal marijuana use can affect infant size, behavior

May 10, 2018

Science Daily/University at Buffalo

Smoking during pregnancy has well-documented negative effects on birth weight in infants and is linked to several childhood health problems. Now, researchers at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions have found that prenatal marijuana use also can have consequences on infants' weight and can influence behavior problems, especially when combined with tobacco use.

 

"Nearly 30 percent of women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy also report using marijuana," says Rina Das Eiden, PhD, RIA senior research scientist. "That number is likely to increase with many states moving toward marijuana legalization, so it's imperative we know what effects prenatal marijuana use may have on infants."

 

Through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Eiden studied nearly 250 infants and their mothers. Of these, 173 of the infants had been exposed to tobacco and/or marijuana during their mothers' pregnancies. None were exposed to significant amounts of alcohol.

 

Eiden found that infants who had been exposed to both tobacco and marijuana, especially into the third trimester, were smaller in length, weight and head size, and were more likely to be born earlier, compared to babies who were not exposed to anything. They also were more likely to be smaller in length and weight compared to babies exposed only to tobacco in the third trimester. The results were stronger for boys compared to girls.

 

"We also found that lower birth weight and size predicted a baby's behavior in later infancy," Eiden says. "Babies who were smaller were reported by their mothers to be more irritable, more easily frustrated and had greater difficulty calming themselves when frustrated. Thus, there was an indirect association between co-exposure to tobacco and marijuana and infant behavior via poor growth at delivery."

 

Furthermore, women who showed symptoms of anger, hostility and aggression reported more stress in pregnancy and were more likely to continue using tobacco and marijuana throughout pregnancy. Therefore, due to the co-exposure, they were more likely to give birth to infants smaller in size and who were more irritable and easily frustrated. The infants' irritability and frustration is also linked to mothers who experienced higher levels of stress while pregnant.

 

"Our results suggest that interventions with women who smoke cigarettes or use marijuana while pregnant should also focus on reducing stress and helping them cope with negative emotions," Eiden says. "This may help reduce prenatal substance exposure and subsequent behavior problems in infants."

 

The study appeared in the March/April issue of Child Development and was authored by Pamela Schuetze, PhD, Department of Psychology, Buffalo State College, with co-authors Eiden; Craig R. Colder, PhD, UB Department of Psychology; Marilyn A. Huestis, PhD, Institute of Emerging Health Professions, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; and Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, RIA director.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180510145924.htm

Hemp shows potential for treating ovarian cancer

Hemp shows potential for treating ovarian cancer

Researchers used cultured ovarian cancer cells to investigate the anti-cancer properties of hemp extract. Credit: Annie Wang

Prenatal cannabis use associated with low birth weights

The study, led by Colorado School of Public Health, shows a 50 percent increase in low birth weights among women who use cannabis during pregnancy

April 23, 2018

Science Daily/University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

With marijuana use during pregnancy on the rise, a new study led by the Colorado School of Public Health shows that prenatal cannabis use was associated with a 50 percent increased likelihood of low birth weight, setting the stage for serious future health problems including infection and time spent in Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

 

"Our findings underscore the importance of screening for cannabis use during prenatal care and the need for provider counselling about the adverse health consequences of continued use during pregnancy," said the study's lead author Tessa Crume, PhD, MSPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

 

The study was published last month in The Journal of Pediatrics.

 

Crume and her colleagues utilized survey data from 3,207 women who participated in the Colorado Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in 2014 and 15. They found the prevalence of marijuana use in the state of Colorado was 5.7 percent during pregnancy and 5 percent among women who were breastfeeding.

 

They also discovered that prenatal marijuana use was associated with a 50 percent increased chance of low birth weight regardless of tobacco use during pregnancy. Prenatal marijuana use was three to four times higher among women who were younger, less educated, received Medicaid or WIC, were white, unmarried and lived in poverty.

 

Crume said the numbers are surprising but also reflect changing attitudes toward marijuana, especially in a state like Colorado where it is legal.

 

"There is increased availability, increased potency and a vocal pro-cannabis advocacy movement that may be creating a perception that marijuana is safe to use during pregnancy," Crume said.

 

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests that cannabis use among pregnant women has increased as much as 62 percent between 2002 and 2014. At the same time, the potency of the drug has increased six or seven fold since the 1970s along with the ways it is consumed -- eating, vaping, lotions etc.

 

"Growing evidence suggests prenatal cannabis exposure has a detrimental impact on offspring brain function starting in the toddler years, specifically issues related to attention deficit disorder," Crume said. "But much of the research on the effects of prenatal cannabis on neonatal outcomes was based on marijuana exposures in the 1980s and 1990s which may not reflect the potency of today's cannabis or the many ways it is used."

 

The study found that 88.6 percent of women who used cannabis during pregnancy also breastfed. The risk of cannabis to the infant through breastmilk remains unknown. Various studies have found that cannabinoids are passed to the baby in this way. One of the study's co-authors, Dr. Erica Wymore, MD, MPH, from Children's Hospital Colorado and the CU School of Medicine, is currently conducting a study to evaluate this issue.

 

The researchers recommend that health care providers ask pregnant women about their cannabis use and advise them to stop during pregnancy and lactation.

 

"Obstetric providers should refrain from prescribing or recommending cannabis for medical purposes during preconception, pregnancy and lactation," Crume said. "Guidance and messaging about this should be incorporated into prenatal care. And screening of pregnant women at risk for cannabis dependency should be linked to treatment options."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423125052.htm

Testing breast milk for cannabinoids

January 11, 2017

Science Daily/American Chemical Society

With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana spreading across the country, the drug's use is reportedly increasing among pregnant women. It stands to reason that many of these women will continue to use marijuana after they give birth. Now researchers have developed a new method to help determine what this means for infants' potential exposure to the active compounds in marijuana in breast milk. Their report appears in the journal ACS Omega.

 

Cannabinoids, marijuana's active compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol, like to stick to fat, which is abundant in breast milk. This stickiness suggests that in women who use marijuana, these compounds can end up in breast milk, raising concerns about their potential effects on nursing babies. But the health risks to these infants largely remain undetermined. This is partly due to researchers' limited ability to precisely measure marijuana's active compounds in milk. Current analytical methods can detect THC at levels of 1.5 nanograms per milliliter or higher, but no current method can measure cannabinol or cannabidiol in milk.

 

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a method that begins with saponification -- a process often associated with soap-making -- to separate cannabinoids from fat in milk. With this approach, the team can detect trace levels (picograms per milliliter) of active marijuana compounds, including cannabinol and cannabidiol, that they say could be present in milk due to second-hand exposure. The test is 100 times better at detecting THC in milk than previous techniques. The researchers say that their approach could contribute to future studies designed to determine potential health risks of a mother's marijuana exposure to her breastfeeding infant.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170111102842.htm

Forgotten fathers: New dads also at risk for postpartum depression

Study provides an in-depth look at new fathers' experiences with PPD

March 7, 2019

Science Daily/University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A new study offers an in-depth view of new fathers' experiences with postpartum depression (PPD). The study explores issues they encounter and how they can move beyond barriers they face in receiving diagnoses and treatment of the little-known phenomenon.

 

It's increasingly common to hear about new moms suffering from the baby blues. But what about new dads?

 

A new UNLV study, published last week in the Journal of Family Issues, offers an in-depth view of new fathers' experiences with postpartum depression (PPD). The study explores issues they encounter and how they can move beyond barriers they face in receiving diagnoses and treatment of the little-known phenomenon.

 

Between 5 and 10 percent of new fathers in the United States suffer from PPD, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. One study shows that the risk goes up to 24 to 50 percent for men whose partners suffer from PPD.

 

A team of researchers, led by UNLV Couple and Family Therapy professor Brandon Eddy, scoured blogs, websites, forums, and chat rooms for first-hand accounts from new dads. Six themes emerged:

 

·     Needing education.Fathers didn't know men could suffer from PPD and were surprised to learn others experienced it. Women who saw PPD in men were unsure of what to call it. Men complained about pushback or not receiving information from doctors or therapists, or frustration that the PPD resources they did manage to find focused solely on how to help their wives.

·     Adhering to gender expectations. Many dads felt pressured to espouse traditional "tough guy" stereotypes. In fact, one man who told another father to "suck it up" said he knew it was bad advice but explained that it's what's expected of men.

·     Repressing feelings.Men were reluctant to share their feelings for fear of sounding ridiculous or looking weak to their wives, who were the primary caregivers.

·     Overwhelmed.Many of the new dads found it difficult to express their emotions of confusion, exhaustion, helplessness, loneliness, and feeling trapped. Parents often suffer from lack of sleep after birth, which can exacerbate stress and depressive symptoms -- making them more irritable to their children's crying.

·     Resentment of baby.While many fathers expressed joy and excitement for the arrival of their children, others resented their baby's constant needs and attention. A few talked about suppressing urges to hurt the baby or themselves.

·     Experience of neglect.The dads felt lost, forgotten, and neglected -- by their wives, the health care system, and society. One father described "uncomfortably laughing" while reading PPD screening questions typically asked of women during routine checkups: "I began to feel like someone should be asking me the same questions." Another said men, who must simply wait while women do the hard work of pregnancy and labor and lack an umbilical cord connection to their children, had often shared with him similar stories of struggling with PPD: "There's no truly acceptable place or context for men to publicly reveal being challenged -- much less rocked to the core -- by what I call 'sudden parenthood'."

 

Overall, the findings complement previous studies on barriers for fathers suffering from PPD. UNLV researchers said encountering a lack of information and stigma often causes dads to distance themselves from their child and has been associated with marital difficulties.

 

Previous research elsewhere has found that paternal involvement has many positive outcomes for children, such as boys displaying less hostile behavior then children with absent dads, reduced delinquency for both sexes, considerably higher IQ scores for children in their early development years, and lower levels of emotional distress. That's on top of studies showing fathers who suffer from PPD report lower levels of communication with their partners, as well as increased rates of substance abuse and domestic violence.

 

"The expectations society gives to men of what they are supposed to be, what they are supposed to do, and how they do it was a significant factor on how many of these men chose to cope with life stressors," the UNLV researchers wrote.

 

"Because men are already less likely than women to seek professional help for depression, it is vital that the stigma of PPD decreases," they added. "Because paternal involvement is a significant factor in the healthy development of children, it would seem wise to make information about paternal PPD more available in order to combat its negative impact on families."

 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force -- an independent coalition of national experts -- recently recommended that all women be screened for depression before and after giving birth. There is no current assessment designed to specifically screen men for PPD.

 

"With the vast amount of research conducted on the importance of paternal involvement and the rising rates of PPD in fathers," researchers wrote, "it seems logical that fathers should also be included in this recommendation."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307091448.htm

Child's elevated mental ill-health risk if mother treated for infection during pregnancy

March 7, 2019

Science Daily/University of Gothenburg

Risks for autism and depression are higher if one's mother was in hospital with an infection during pregnancy. This is shown by a major Swedish observational study of nearly 1.8 million children.

 

"The results indicate that safeguarding against and preventing infection during pregnancy as far as possible by, for instance, following flu vaccination recommendations, may be called for," says Verena Sengpiel, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and last author of the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

 

Maternal infection with certain infectious agents, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) or the herpes virus, are already known to be capable of harming fetal brain development and boosting the risk of certain psychiatric disorders.

 

The findings of the current study, however, also show that infection in general during pregnancy, too -- including when the actual infectious agent does not reach the fetal brain -- is related to elevated risk of the child developing autism or depression later in life.

 

More autism and depression

 

The study is based on data on all children, totaling almost 1.8 million, born in Sweden during the years 1973-2014. The particulars from the Swedish Medical Birth Register were linked to the national inpatient register, which records whether the mother was treated in hospital with an infection diagnosis during the pregnancy concerned.

 

Using the inpatient register, the researchers also monitored these children's mental health until 2014, when the oldest were aged 41.

 

It was found that if, during pregnancy, a mother with an infection diagnosis received hospital treatment, there was a marked rise in the risk of her child needing hospital care later in life, with a diagnosis of either autism or depression. The increase in risk was 79 percent for autism and 24 percent for depression.

 

In contrast, there was no association between the mothers being in hospital with an infection diagnosis during pregnancy and two other psychiatric diagnoses studied in their children: bipolar disorder and psychosis, including schizophrenia.

 

Increased risk even after mild infection

 

The pregnant women in the study may have been hospitalized with diagnoses other than infections, but then had infections diagnosed during their stay as well. The elevated risk of mental ill-health in the child was also evident after infections in the pregnant women that are usually considered mild, such as a common urinary tract infection.

 

The study, which was observational, provides no answer on how maternal infection during pregnancy affects fetal brain development. However, other studies have shown that an infection in the mother leads to an inflammatory reaction, and that some inflammatory proteins can affect gene expression in fetal brain cells.

 

Other research shows that inflammation in the mother boosts production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the placenta, which may conceivably affect the unborn child's brain development.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307103212.htm

Sensory stimuli improves brain damage in mouse models of preterm birth

March 4, 2019

Science Daily/Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

A research conducted by the INc-UAB shows that the same perinatal brain injury caused by hypoxia and ischemia have differentiated effects on each gender, but can be improved through tactile and proprioceptive stimuli. Petting and massaging the mice in the first stages of their life provided neurological protection in their adult life, especially in male mice in which the injury was reduced by half.

 

Perinatal brain injuries hinder neurological capabilities throughout life, causing anything from fine motor problems to severe cognitive limitations. At the same time, therapy treatments currently available are very limited. That is why other types of interventions to help counter these effects are being explored.

 

Now, a new study by researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB), led by Dr Lydia Giménez-Llort, demonstrates that tactile and proprioceptive stimulation -related to the tactile perception and that of the body's own position, muscle bone, balance and coordination of movements- improves the effects of perinatal hypoxic and ischemic brain injuries throughout the life of the mice. This improvement mainly benefits male mice, in which the neurological damage is reduced by half.

 

The study, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, was conducted with mouse models of preterm birth. "We currently know that the immature brain of preterm infants, equivalent to that of mice when born, is at a larger risk for hypoxic-ischemic damage, and male newborns are more susceptible and respond worse to protective and therapeutic interventions," co-author of the study Mireia Recasens points out. "Our work provides important information on this serious health problem with a damage of 1-3.5 and 6 of every thousand births in developed and developing countries, respectively."

 

Sensory stimulation was applied from before the injury occurred until the final stages of infancy, a period in preterm infants equivalent to being born at seven months until two years. The manipulation consisted in tactile and propioceptive stroking and massaging of the mice three times within an eight-minute period, twice a day.

 

The results revealed that this intervention had a notable neurological protection on both genders throughout their lives, but researchers highlight that the effects were especially positive among males. The histopathological analysis in males demonstrated 50% less brain damage compared to the non-stimulated mice. There was a 30% decrease among female mice. The neurological protection in both genders was correlated to the improvement of functional capacities, reflexes, and an improvement in memory results.

 

In relation to brain areas, the region involved with motor control and learning and memory (caudate/putamen) was the one to register the largest difference in males, with 80% less damage. In females, the main improvement was a 66% reduction in atrophy to the corpus callosum, a nerve tract connecting the left and right brain hemispheres.

 

"The study illustrates the preventive and therapeutic potential of these types of stimulations in newborns with brain injuries, in a short yet very intense period at levels of brain development and plasticity. It also gives support to the different scientific approaches advocating for the transcendence of perinatal conditions -- from sensory stimulation to maternal contact and a warm and protective environment -- and its role as an adjuvant to current therapies," highlights Dr Giménez-Llort, who is also a member of the International Gender Medicine (IGM) and the ISNA, an international association of sensory stimulation and snoezelen, which studies its effects.

 

One same injury with different effects according to gender

 

The research also analysed for the first time the impact of perinatal hypoxic and ischemic brain injuries, demonstrating that although the same degree of neuropathological severity exists, the damage affects each gender's functional, neurological, cognitive and emotional capacities differently depending on the stage of life and task undertaken.

 

"During the infant stage, the damage affects balance, particularly among females, and prehension in males, but both aspects improve as they grow and only reflexes remain damaged. Male mice showed to have infantile hyperactivity, which normalises as they became adults. In contrast, the anxiety and emotional traits of these injuries lasted throughout their lives. Both genders showed poorer learning processes at short and long terms, but there was more damage to memory among the males," explains Aida Muntsant, PhD student at the INc-UAB and first author of the paper. The functional evaluations were correlated with the degree of severity of the affected brain areas: hippocampus, caudate/putamen, thalamus, neocortex and corpus callosum.

 

Rehabilitation targets

 

"As a whole, the study shows the different neuronal substrates needed to satisfy functional demands and points to the most resilient neuroanatomical targets to repair these functions through postnatal stimulation," points out Dr Kalpana Shrisvastava, specialist in neuroimmunology and co-first author of the paper.

 

"Despite the obvious differences between rodents and humans, the study shows the complex relationship between different regions of the brain, risk factors, vulnerability and resilience, and all dependant on gender and age. It also provides new data on behavioural neuroscience within the field of neonatology and the area of paediatric functional rehabilitation, defining a translational scenario in which to study the underlying mechanisms of the functional and neuropathological correlates found," concludes Dr Lydia Giménez-Llort.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304100034.htm

Mother's behavioral corrections tune infant's brain to angry tone

Maternal interactions may help shape the same brain region adults use for vocal emotion processing

February 27, 2019

Science Daily/PLOS

The same brain network that adults use when they hear angry vocalizations is at work in infants as young as six months old, an effect that is strongest in infants whose mothers spend the most time controlling their behavior, according to a new study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chen Zhao of the University of Manchester, UK, and colleagues. The study indicates that the network recruited in adult vocal emotion processing is up and running quite early in life, and that its sensitivity to anger is partly a result of maternal interactions.

 

It has been recognized for generations that infants can distinguish the emotional content of their mothers' voices long before they understand words, based on intonation, tone, rhythm, and other elements. In adults, that emotional content is processed in the frontal and temporal lobes. Brain imaging studies in infants have been performed, but the noise of an MRI machine has made analysis of response to sounds challenging.

 

In the current study, the authors overcame that limitation by using functional near infrared spectroscopy, a silent, noninvasive method that measures blood flow to cortical areas, while infants sat in their mothers' laps and listened to recorded non-speech vocalizations that were angry, happy, or neutral in emotionality. Separately, the team also observed the same mother-infant pairs during floor play, quantifying the mother's interactions in terms of both sensitivity to infant behavior as it changed, and directiveness, or the degree to which the mother sought to control the infant's behavior.

 

They found that both angry and happy vocalizations activated the fronto-cortical network, and the level of activation in response to anger was greater for those infants whose mothers were more directive in their interactions. The results suggest that greater experience with directive caregiving, or the stress it produces, heightens the infant brain's ability to detect and respond to angry vocalizations.

 

Zhao adds: "Brain science shows that babies' brains are sensitive to different emotional tones they hear in voices. Such tones can cause different activation patterns in the infant's brain areas which are also known to be involved in processing voices in adults and older children. These patterns also reveal that the early care experienced by babies can influence brain responses so that the more intrusive and demanding their mother, the stronger the brain response of these 6-month-olds is to hearing angry voices."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190227142726.htm

Infant sleep duration associated with mother's level of education and prenatal depression

Findings show greater support for mothers who experience prenatal depression or cesarean delivery may be warranted

February 27, 2019

Science Daily/University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

A new study analyzing data from Canadian parents has found that babies sleep less at three months of age if their mothers do not have a university degree, experienced depression during pregnancy or had an emergency cesarean-section delivery.

 

The study, which examined associations between a mother's level of education, prenatal depression, method of delivery and her infant's sleep duration, was published this month in Sleep Medicine. It found that infants born to mothers without a university degree slept an average of 13.94 hours per day -- 23 minutes less than infants born to mothers with a university degree, and just short of the National Sleep Foundation guidelines of an average of 14-17 hours of sleep per day at three months of age.

 

The researchers analyzed data from 619 infants and their mothers participating in AllerGen's CHILD Cohort Study -- a national birth cohort study collecting a wide range of health, lifestyle, genetic and environmental exposure information from nearly 3,500 children and their families from pregnancy to adolescence.

 

"Sleep affects a baby's growth, learning and emotional development, and is one of the most common concerns of new parents," said Piush Mandhane, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta and one of the study's lead authors.

 

"While earlier research has linked a mother's socioeconomic status, including level of education, to shorter infant sleep duration, we have not really understood the factors at play. Our study revealed that 30 per cent of the effect of maternal education on infant sleep duration is actually mediated by a mother's prenatal depression, as well as the type of delivery."

 

Specifically, the researchers found mothers without a university degree to be at significantly higher risk of having symptoms of depression during both the prenatal and postnatal periods, or the prenatal period alone, compared to women with a university degree.

 

There are several possible explanations for the association between maternal depression and infant sleep, according to co-lead author Anita Kozyrskyj, also a professor of pediatrics at the U of A. "Mothers in distress tend to have sleep problems during pregnancy, which can be 'transmitted' to the fetus via the mother's circadian clock and melatonin levels," she said. "Maternal depression and emergency cesarean section also both lead to elevated free cortisol levels, which, in turn, may cause an exaggerated stress response in infants that negatively impacts their sleep."

 

Further, the researchers found that the method of delivery independently predicted infant sleep duration, with infants delivered by emergency cesarean section sleeping approximately one hour less per day than infants born by vaginal delivery.

 

"This was an interesting finding, as we did not observe an association between shorter infant sleep and scheduled cesarean sections or vaginal deliveries," commented first author Brittany Matenchuk, an AllerGen trainee and a former Master's student at the U of A.

 

"While we are still at an early stage of unravelling the underlying biologic mechanisms, our study suggests that prenatal depression and birth mode are potential targets for health-care professionals and policy makers to improve infant sleep duration. Mothers who experience prenatal depression or an emergency cesarean delivery may benefit from support so that infant sleep problems do not persist into childhood."

 

According to the team, previous studies have shown that sleep has a large impact on infant emotional and behavioural development. It may also affect how they perform cognitively later in life.

 

"We need to support moms before the child is born," added Mandhane. "And if we can start to promote healthy sleep early on, three months of age onward, I think that just is better for families in general."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190227140010.htm

Working long hours linked to depression in women

February 25, 2019

Science Daily/University College London

Women who work more than 55 hours a week are at a higher risk of depression but this is not the case for men, according to a new study.

 

The study of over 20,000 adults, published today in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that after taking age, income, health and job characteristics into account, women who worked extra-long hours had 7.3% more depressive symptoms than women working a standard 35-40 week. Weekend working was linked to a higher risk of depression among both sexes.

 

Women who worked for all or most weekends had 4.6% more depressive symptoms on average compared to women working only weekdays. Men who worked all or most weekends had 3.4% more depressive symptoms than men working only weekdays.

 

"This is an observational study, so although we cannot establish the exact causes, we do know many women face the additional burden of doing a larger share of domestic labour than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities," explained Gill Weston (UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care), PhD candidate and lead author of the study.

 

"Additionally women who work most weekends tend to be concentrated in low-paid service sector jobs, which have been linked to higher levels of depression."

 

The study showed that men tended to work longer hours in paid work than women, and having children affected men's and women's work patterns in different ways: while mothers tended to work fewer hours than women without children, fathers tended to work more hours than men without children.

 

Two thirds of men worked weekends, compared with half of women. Those who worked all or most weekends were more likely to be in low skilled work and to be less satisfied with their job and their earnings than those who only worked Monday to Friday or some weekends.

 

Researchers analysed data from the Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). This has been tracking the health and wellbeing of a representative sample of 40,000 households across the UK since 2009.

 

Information about working hours, weekend working, working conditions and psychological distress was collected from 11,215 working men and 12,188 working women between 2010 and 2012. Depressive symptoms such as feeling worthless or incapable were measured using a self-completed general health questionnaire.

 

"Women in general are more likely to be depressed than men, and this was no different in the study," Weston said.

 

"Independent of their working patterns, we also found that workers with the most depressive symptoms were older, on lower incomes, smokers, in physically demanding jobs, and who were dissatisfied at work."

 

She added: "We hope our findings will encourage employers and policy-makers to think about how to reduce the burdens and increase support for women who work long or irregular hours -- without restricting their ability to work when they wish to.

 

"More sympathetic working practices could bring benefits both for workers and for employers -- of both sexes."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190225192140.htm

New parents face 6 years of disrupted sleep

February 25, 2019

Science Daily/University of Warwick

The birth of a child has drastic short-term effects on new mothers' sleep, particularly during the first three months after birth. Researchers have also found sleep duration and satisfaction is decreased up to six years after giving birth for both parents.

 

A new study by researchers from the University of Warwick shows that after birth of the first child and up to 6 years after birth mothers and fathers sleep duration and sleep satisfaction do not fully recover to the levels before pregnancy.

 

In the paper 'Long-term effects of pregnancy and childbirth on sleep satisfaction and duration of first-time and experienced mothers and fathers', a collaboration with the German Institute for Economic Research and the West Virginia University studied sleep in 4,659 parents who had a child between 2008 and 2015.

 

During these years parents also reported on their sleep in yearly interviews. In the first 3 months after birth mothers slept on average 1 hour less than before pregnancy while fathers sleep duration decreased by approximately 15 minutes.

 

Dr Sakari Lemola, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

 

"Women tend to experience more sleep disruption than men after the birth of a child reflecting that mothers are still more often in the role of the primary caregiver than fathers"

 

However, when the children were 4-6 years old sleep duration was still about 20 minutes shorter in mothers and 15 minutes shorter in fathers compared to their sleep duration before pregnancy. A similar time course was also observed for their satisfaction with sleep.

 

Sleep effects were more pronounced in first-time parents compared with experienced parents. In the first half a year after birth the sleep effects were also somewhat stronger in breastfeeding compared with bottle-feeding mothers.

 

Higher household income and psychosocial factors such as dual vs. single parenting did not appear to protect against these changes in sleep after childbirth.

 

Dr Sakari Lemola, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

 

"While having children is a major source of joy for most parents it is possible that increased demands and responsibilities associated with the role as a parent lead to shorter sleep and decreased sleep quality even up to 6 years after birth of the first child."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190225192116.htm

Acne stigma linked to lower overall quality of life

Women and girls with acne reported greater impairment of life quality than their male counterparts

September 28, 2018

Science Daily/University of Limerick

Many people with acne are negatively impacted by perceived social stigma around the skin condition, a new study from Ireland has found.

 

A survey of 271 acne sufferers has revealed that their own negative perceptions of how society views their appearance is associated with higher psychological distress levels and further physical symptoms such as sleep disturbance, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

 

Females in the study reported greater impairment of life quality and more symptoms than males. Acne severity was significantly correlated with health-related quality of life and psychological distress.

 

UL researchers Dr Aisling O'Donnell and Jamie Davern conducted the study to investigate whether acne sufferers' perceptions of stigmatisation significantly predicts psychological and physical health outcomes; specifically health-related quality of life, psychological distress, and somatic symptoms.

 

"We know from previous research that many acne sufferers experience negative feelings about their condition, but we have never before been able to draw such a direct link between quality of life and perception of social stigma around acne," said Dr O'Donnell of the Department of Psychology and Centre for Social Issues Research at UL.

 

Survey respondents who perceived high levels of acne stigma also reported higher levels of psychological distress, anxiety and depression as well as somatic conditions such as respiratory illness.

 

"The findings of this study echo previous research showing that individuals with visible physical distinctions, which are viewed negatively by society, can experience impaired psychological and physical well-being as a result," Dr O'Donnell continued.

 

According to the article's lead author, PhD student Jamie Davern, a lack of representation of people with acne in popular culture can increase the perceived stigma around the condition.

 

"Like many physical attributes that are stigmatised, acne is not well represented in popular culture, advertising or social media. This can lead people with acne to feel that they are 'not normal' and therefore negatively viewed by others. Online campaigns like #freethepimple and the recent 'acne-positive' movement emerging on social media is an encouraging development for people of all ages that are affected by acne," he explained.

 

Although adolescents are most commonly afflicted by acne, the condition has been reported to affect 10.8% of children between the ages of 5-13 years and 12.7% of adults aged over 59.

 

"Importantly, the findings provide further support for the comparatively limited amount of studies investigating physical health problems experienced by acne sufferers. This is important information for clinicians dealing with acne conditions. It's also useful for those who are close to acne sufferers. The wider negative impacts some acne sufferers experience are very challenging and require sensitivity and support," Mr Davern concluded.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180928162311.htm

Positive thinking during pregnancy may help children's ability in math and science

February 8, 2019

Science Daily/University of Bristol

Your attitude during pregnancy could have an effect on your child's ability in math and science, according to a new study.

 

Using data from Bristol's Children of the 90s study the research is one of a series from the University of Bristol, that examines a parental personality attribute known as the 'locus of control'. This is a psychological measure of how much someone believes that they have control over the outcome of events in their life or whether external forces beyond their control dictates how life turns out.

 

Those with an external locus of control would believe there is little point in making an effort as what happens to them is due to luck and circumstances, in contrast with internally controlled people who are motivated into action because they feel they can influence what is going to happen.

 

Researchers examined the 'locus of control' by using responses from questionnaires completed by over 1600 pregnant women who took part in the Children of the 90s study. They then looked at the mathematical and scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills of their offspring at the ages of 8, 11 and 13 assessed in school using specially designed tests. This study is among the first to link the prenatal locus of control of parents to the maths and science abilities of their offspring years later.

 

Findings reveal that mothers with an internal locus of control before their child was born (those who believe in the connection between their actions and what happens to them) were more likely to have a child who is good at maths and science. Compared to their externally controlled peers, internally focussed mothers also were more likely to provide their children with diets that assist brain development, to more frequently read stories to them and to show an interest in their child's homework and academic progress.

 

Lead author and founder of the Children of the 90s study Professor Jean Golding OBE said:

 

"It is widely known that the locus of control of a child is strongly associated with their academic achievements but until now we didn't know if mothers' locus of control orientation during pregnancy had a role to play in early childhood. Thanks to the longitudinal data from Children of the 90s study we can now make these associations.

 

"If our findings, that mothers' attitudes and behaviours can have an effect on their child's academic abilities, can be replicated it would suggest that more efforts should be made to increase the opportunities for mothers to feel that their behaviours will have a positive outcome for themselves and their children. It would help future generations raise healthy, confident and independent children.

 

"The next steps for this area of psychology will be for researchers to look at this at an international level to see if the findings are replicated. Other factors that will be important will be to undertake an intervention study to assess whether encouraging women to become more internal will improve the academic development of their children."

 

Candler Professor of Psychology Stephen Nowicki at Emory University, Atlanta, a co-author, and expert on locus of control added:

 

"Internal parents believe that they have behavioural choices in life. This and other findings from our child development work with the University of Bristol with expectant parents show that when they expect life outcomes to be linked to what they do their children eat better, sleep better and are better able to control their emotions. Such children later in childhood are also more likely to have greater academic achievements, fewer school related personal and social difficulties and less likelihood of being obese.

 

"It is possible for a parent to change their outlook; we've demonstrated in the past that parents who become more internal (i.e. learn to see the connections between what they do and what happens to their children) improved their parenting skills which would have a positive effect on their children's personal, social and academic lives."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190208082158.htm

Effects of teenage motherhood may last multiple generations

February 6, 2019

Science Daily/PLOS

The grandchildren of adolescent mothers have lower school readiness scores than their peers, according to a new study.

 

Previous studies have established that children born to adolescent mothers are less ready for school and have poorer educational outcomes than children born to older mothers. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain this association, including maternal education levels, social support and monetary resources.

 

To determine whether this effect extends to multiple generations, the authors used data from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository to identify 11,326 children born in Manitoba, Canada, in 2000 through 2006 whose mothers were born in 1979 through 1997. Children born in these years took the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a 103 item questionnaire administered by kindergarten teachers to assess five areas of development. The researchers were able to link information from the data repository, EDI scores, and Canadian Census data. Results were adjusted to account for differences in birth year and location, income quintile, and child's health at birth.

 

A greater percentage (36%) of children whose grandmothers had been adolescent mothers were not ready for school than children whose grandmothers were 20 or older at the birth of their first child (31%). The relationship persisted even when a child's own mother was not an adolescent mother. Compared with children whose mothers and grandmothers were both at least 20 at the birth of their first child, those with grandmothers who were adolescent mothers but older mothers had 39% greater odds of not being ready for school (95%CI: 1.22-1.60). These children lagged behind in physical well-being, social competence, language and cognitive development.

 

The educational attainment and marital status of mothers and grandmothers was not available in the data, nor was individual income. The mechanisms underlying this multigenerational effect are unclear but the results have policy implications for school readiness interventions as well as calculating the costs and consequences of adolescent motherhood. Interventions to improve outcomes of children born to adolescent mothers should also extend to grandchildren of adolescent mothers, the authors say.

 

The authors add: "Adolescent childbearing has significant implications for early childhood development -- not just for the child of that mother, but also for the grandchild of that mother."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190206144523.htm

Climate change poses greater risk of mental health challenges for children born to depressed mothers

The findings suggest a need for prenatal interventions in an era of growing environmental disasters

February 6, 2019

Science Daily/The Graduate Center, CUNY

Climate change poses an exponentially greater risk for mental health problems in children born to mothers with prenatal depression who also experience natural disaster-related stress. That is the message of a new study of infants born to New York City mothers shortly after Superstorm Sandy.

 

The study, appearing in today's issue of Infant Mental Health, builds on previous findings that disaster-related prenatal stress can have negative effects on an infant's temperament. In their new work, researchers also found that in the case of mothers who were pregnant during Superstorm Sandy and who were predisposed to depression, the effects on their babies were many times worse.

 

"Prenatal depression increases the risk for infants to have a difficult temperament, but when we factored in the stress of experiencing an environmental catastrophe, one plus one was not two: It was ten," said the study's lead author Yoko Nomura, a psychology professor with The Graduate Center of The City University of New York and Queens College. Nomura published her study while a faculty fellow at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center. "Our research found that, compared to other babies, infants born to women who were prenatally depressed and pregnant during Superstorm Sandy had higher rates of distress and lower rates of pleasure-seeking activities."

 

The study considered 310 pairs of mothers and children, recruited from clinics that serve patients from around the boroughs of New York City. The researchers assessed the mothers' depression symptoms, and mothers reported their infants' temperament via a questionnaire six months after birth.

 

Infants of depressed mothers displayed greater distress and fear, less smiling and laughter, and lower soothability and cuddliness compared to infants of mothers with lower scores for depression. The infants of depressed mothers who were pregnant during Sandy displayed even worse temperament.

 

In a 2018 study by several of the same authors, researchers concluded that a mother's stress impacts her child's temperament during the early years of childhood, and they demonstrated that this was true for children born during or close to the time of Superstorm Sandy.

 

The researchers posited that epigenetic responses to external stressors may be the cause of the increased incidents and intensity of mental health challenges for these infants.

 

"The combination of environmental stressors and biology may compromise gene expression and cause an excessive amount of cortisol to be passed from the mother to the fetus, resulting in infants having poorer emotional regulation, shyness and fearfulness," said co-author Jessica Buthmann, a Graduate Center doctoral student (Psychology) and Queens College adjunct professor.

 

Nomura's team recommends monitoring and screening for at-risk mothers during future environmental events as the rising incidents of environmental disasters are likely to put more mothers and infants at risk for climate change-related mental health problems.

 

"The take-home point is that we should be mindful to look out for the high-risk mothers, because the long-term consequences for the mental health of their offspring could be eased with proper intervention," Nomura said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190206131943.htm

Maternal depression and natural disaster-related stress may affect infants' temperament

February 6, 2019

Science Daily/Wiley

A new study demonstrates that prenatal maternal depression has important consequences for infant temperament. Furthermore, the negative impact of prenatal maternal depression appeared to be magnified when pregnant women lived through Superstorm Sandy.

 

The study analyzed data on 310 mother-child dyads, with 64 percent of women being pregnant prior to Sandy and 36 percent being pregnant during Sandy. Compared with other infants, infants born to women with prenatal depression were more likely to experience greater distress, greater fear, lower smiling and laughter, lower high- and low-pleasure seeking, lower soothability, slower falling reactivity, lower cuddliness, and greater sadness at six months of age. These effects were amplified when women were pregnant during Superstorm Sandy.

 

"The fetal period is one of the most critical periods for neurodevelopment. Prenatal stress, especially during this critical period of fetal development, may render the developing brain more vulnerable to additional stressors such as maternal depression," said lead author Dr. Yoko Nomura, of Queens College, the Advanced Research Science Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Natural disasters may increase in frequency and magnitude, but we can attempt to alleviate the negative impacts on offspring if we identify high risk pregnant mothers with depression and offer them interventions to make them more resilient."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190206091409.htm

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