Women/Prenatal/Infant3

Mothers' sleep, late in pregnancy, affects offspring's weight gain as adults

May 16, 2014

Science Daily/University of Chicago Medical Center

Poor-quality sleep during the third trimester of pregnancy can increase the odds of weight gain and metabolic abnormalities in offspring once they reach adulthood. The effects, caused by epigenetic modifications, impose lasting consequences on the next generation.

 

The researchers linked the excess weight and changes in metabolism to epigenetic modifications that reduce expression of the gene for adiponectin -- a hormone that helps regulate several metabolic processes, including glucose regulation. Lower levels of adiponectin correlate with increased body fat and reduced activity.

 

"Disrupted sleep is a common problem during the final trimester of a pregnancy," said study director, sleep specialist David Gozal, MD, the Herbert T Abelson professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago. "For some women, sleep fragmentation, especially sleep apnea, can be profound. We wanted to devise a system that enabled us to measure the potential impact of fragmented sleep on the fetus, which is uniquely susceptible so early in life."

 

Adiponectin is usually a "beneficial hormone," Gozal said. "It can reduce cholesterol, make you more sensitive to insulin, protect your heart." As adiponectin levels in adults go up, body-fat percentage tends to go down. Expression of the adiponectin gene was reduced in the offspring of sleep-fragmented mothers, especially in their visceral fat cells.

 

A closer look revealed epigenetic changes, such as methylation and histone modification, which shut down selected genes, often in response to environmental stresses.

 

"We found that the offspring of sleep-deprived mothers had largely inactivated AdipoQ, the adiponectin gene," Gozal said. "Such changes may affect other genes as well; we haven't studied all the potential targets yet. Even so, this is the first example of a perturbation during pregnancy that translates into a genetic risk, in midlife, for the next generation."

 

"This is kind of scary," he added. "Will this generation, the sons of sleep-deprived mice, who are already at increased risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, transmit this inherited risk, perhaps compounded by new stresses, to their offspring?"

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140516092305.htm

Yoga can help keep expectant mothers stress free: First evidence found

April 30, 2014

Science Daily/Manchester University

The effects of yoga on pregnant women has been studied, with results showing that it can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression. Stress during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight and increased developmental and behavioral problems in the child as a toddler and adolescent, as well as later mental health problems in the mother. A high level of anxiety during pregnancy is linked with postnatal depression which in turn is associated with increased risk of developing depression later in life.

 

Dr Newham added: "There is a growing body of evidence that maternal antenatal anxiety may increase the risk of pre-term delivery and the likelihood of giving birth to a low birth weight child. If we can reduce these risk factors, and perhaps reduce the rate of post-natal mood disorders in mothers and negative health outcomes in their offspring, then that can only be a good thing."

 

Professor Aplin said: "The results confirm what many who take part in yoga have suspected for a long time. There is also evidence yoga can reduce the need for pain relief during birth and the likelihood for delivery by emergency caesarean section.

 

"Perhaps we should be looking at providing yoga classes on the NHS. It would be relatively cheap to implement, could help mothers and their children be healthier, as well as reducing the costs of longer term health care."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430192543.htm

Women who gain too much or too little weight during pregnancy at risk for having an overweight child

April 14, 2014

Science Daily/Kaiser Permanente

Gaining both too much or too little weight during pregnancy appears to increase the risk of having an overweight or obese child, according to a study. In one of the largest studies to examine current Institute of Medicine recommendations regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 4,145 racially diverse females who had completed a health survey between 2007 and 2009 and subsequently had a baby.

 

In one of the largest studies to examine current Institute of Medicine recommendations regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 4,145 racially diverse female members of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California who had completed a health survey between 2007 and 2009 and subsequently had a baby.

 

Researchers reviewed the medical records of those children between ages 2 and 5 years old and found that:

 

·      Among all women who gained more than the recommended weight during pregnancy, 20.4 percent of their children were overweight or obese, compared with 19.5 percent in women who gained less than recommended weight and 14.5 percent in women who gained weight within the guidelines.

 

·      Women with a normal Body Mass Index measurement before pregnancy who gained less than the recommended amount were 63 percent more likely to have a child who became overweight or obese.

 

·      Women with a normal BMI before pregnancy with weight gain above recommendations were 80 percent more likely to have an overweight or obese child.

 

"The stronger association we found among normal weight women who gained too much or too little weight during pregnancy suggests that perhaps weight gain in pregnancy may have an impact on the child that is independent of genetic factors," said senior investigator Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

 

"Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure," said the study's lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. "This could potentially have long-term effects on the child's subsequent growth and weight."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092115.htm

PTSD, major depressive episode appears to increase risk of preterm birth

- June 11, 2014

Science Daily/The JAMA Network Journals

Diagnoses of both post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive episode appear to be associated with a sizable increase in risk for preterm birth that seems to be independent of antidepressant and benzodiazepine medication use.

 

Preterm birth is responsible for many infant deaths. Clinicians and patients are concerned about the risks associated with psychiatric illness during pregnancy and the medications used for treatment.

 

The study included a group of 2,654 pregnant women recruited before 17 weeks gestation.

The authors looked for PTSD, major depressive episode, and the use of antidepressant and benzodiazepine medications. They measured preterm births, defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation.

 

Of the women, 129 (4.9 percent) had symptoms consistent with PTSD. Pregnant women with both PTSD and a major depressive episode had a four-fold increased risk of preterm birth. Each one-point increase on a scale measuring PTSD symptoms increased the risk for preterm birth by 1 percent to 2 percent. Women prescribed serotonin reuptake inhibitor and benzodiazepine medications had higher odds for preterm birth.

 

"The risk appears independent of antidepressant or benzodiazepine use and is not simply a function of mood or anxiety symptoms. Further exploration of the biological and genetic factors will help risk-stratify patients and illuminate the pathways leading to this risk."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611171000.htm

Domestic violence victims more likely to take up smoking

- May 5, 2014

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

One-third of women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners with consequences from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Now, in a new study in 29 low-income and middle-income countries, researchers have identified yet another serious health risk associated with intimate partner violence: smoking.

The researchers examined the association between IPV and smoking among 231,892 women aged 15-29, using information collected in the Demographic and Health Surveys. Intimate partner violence is a serious problem in low- and middle-income countries. Reports of IPV in their study ranged from 9 to 63%. Employing a meta-analysis of country-level data that accounted for confounding factors like age, education, and household wealth, they found a 58% increased risk for smoking among the women who experienced IPV.

Women are thought to smoke tobacco to self-medicate to cope with stress from IPV. Many may be unaware of the serious health risks; tobacco kills half of its users, according to the World Health Organization.

The new study focused on low- and middle-income countries, where little research into the IPV-tobacco link has been done. However, the researchers say their results likely mean that the phenomenon is a global one. They cite among other papers, a 2008 study by Hee-Jin Jun et al that showed increased risk in American women.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505112540.htm

Life stressors trigger neurological disorders

April 22, 2014

Science Daily/Children's National Medical Center

When mothers are exposed to trauma, illness, alcohol or other drug abuse, these stressors may activate a single molecular trigger in brain cells that can go awry and activate conditions such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and some forms of autism.

 

Until now, it has been unclear how much these stressors have impacted the cells of a developing brain. Past studies have shown that when an expectant mother exposes herself to alcohol or drug abuse or she experiences some trauma or illness, her baby may later develop a psychiatric disorder later in life. But the new findings identify a molecular mechanism in the prenatal brain that may help explain how cells go awry when exposed to certain environmental conditions.

 

While it has been generally accepted that exposure to harmful environmental factors increase the susceptibility of the brain to neurological and psychiatric disorders, new types of environmental agents are continuingly added to the mix, requiring evolving studies, Hasimoto-Torii says.

 

Hashimoto-Torii notes that autism rates have increased substantially and "more people are having these exposures to environmental stressors," she says. While there have been many studies that have identified singular stressors, such as alcohol, there have not been enough studies to focus on many different environmental factors and their impacts, such as heavy metals as well as alcohol and other toxic exposure, she adds.

 

Identifying many risk factors helped Hashimoto-Torii and other researchers identify the gene that may be linked to neurological problems. "Different stressors may have different stress responses," she says. She examined risk factors specifically involving epilepsy, ADHD, autism and schizophrenia. Eventually, it may open the door "to provide therapy in the future to reduce the risk" and protect vulnerable cells.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422113430.htm

Domestic abuse linked to mental health problems in new mothers

- April 14, 2014

Science Daily/North Carolina State University

Domestic abuse is closely linked to postpartum mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, in mothers, new research confirms. The research also found that specific types of abuse are associated with specific mental health problems. "The sheer scope of the mental health problems and types of abuse that we found tells us that we need to take a broader approach to tackling these issues," states a co-author. "And this is clearly not a 'lower class' problem -- medical professionals everywhere need to pay attention."

 

"We wanted to see whether and how intimate partner abuse -- physical, psychological and sexual -- influenced postpartum mental health in women, including problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and PTSD," says Dr. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.

 

The researchers interviewed 100 women from British Columbia who were largely from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems. The study participants were recruited to participate in a broad health and wellness study, which was not specifically focused on domestic abuse.

 

Sixty-one percent of the study participants reported symptoms of postpartum mental health problems within the first three months after childbirth. And 47 percent of the 100 women reported symptoms at "clinical" levels, meaning the symptoms were of at least moderate severity.

 

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported experiencing physical, psychological or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner prior to becoming pregnant. Seventy percent of the 100 participants reported some form of abuse by their romantic partner during pregnancy. These forms of abuse ranged from name-calling to rape and physical assault with a weapon.

 

"We found that women who had experienced abuse were more likely to suffer from postpartum mental health problems, and were much more likely to suffer from those problems if the abuse occurred during pregnancy," Desmarais says. "In addition, the more types of abuse they experienced, the more severe the mental health symptoms they reported. We also found that specific types of abuse were associated with specific problems."

 

The researchers found that psychological abuse -- verbal and emotional abuse -- was associated with stress and PTSD. Physical abuse was associated with depression, OCD and PTSD. Sexual abuse was associated with stress, depression and PTSD.

 

This means that some mental health problems could stem from any of the forms of abuse. For example, PTSD is associated with all three forms of abuse, but could be caused by any one of them; psychological abuse alone could lead to PTSD.

 

"This highlights the need for increased awareness of the prevalence of these issues, and the need for increased screening for abuse and mental health problems for pregnant women and new mothers," Desmarais says.

 

"The sheer scope of the mental health problems and types of abuse that we found tells us that we need to take a broader approach to tackling these issues," Desmarais adds. "And this is clearly not a 'lower class' problem -- medical professionals everywhere need to pay attention. But to do this effectively, we need to train doctors, nurses, and hospital staff in how to identify and respond to potential problems in this area."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414112439.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

Parental obesity and autism risk in the child: Is paternal obesity a greater risk factor than maternal obesity?

- April 7, 2014

Science Daily/Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Several studies have looked at possible links between maternal obesity during pregnancy and the risk of developmental disorders in the child. However, paternal obesity could be a greater risk factor than maternal obesity, according to a new study.

 

In the sample, 22 per cent of the mothers and 43 per cent of the fathers were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 30. Approximately 10 per cent of mothers and fathers were obese, with a BMI of 30 or more.

 

The researchers found that maternal obesity had little association with the development of autism in the child. However, they found a doubled risk for development of autism and Asperger's syndrome in the child if the father was obese, compared with a normal weight father.

"We were very surprised by these findings because we expected that maternal obesity would be the main risk factor for the development of ASD. It means that we have had too much focus on the mother and too little on the father. This probably reflects the fact that we have given greater focus to conditions in pregnancy, such as the growth environment for the fetus in the womb than both environmental and genetic factors before conception," says Surén.

 

Surén believes that the finding about paternal obesity is sound. The researchers found that the risk remained unchanged when adjusted for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors.

"Our findings therefore suggest that there may be a genetic link between obesity in the father and the development of ASD in the child," says Surén.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407090401.htm

In mice, obese dads produce heavier daughters with epigenetically altered breast tissue

- April 4, 2014

Science Daily/Georgetown University Medical Center

Obese male mice and normal weight female mice produce female pups that are overweight at birth and in childhood, and have increased number of 'terminal end buds' in their breast tissue -- the site where breast cancer often develops in rodents. 'Researchers traditionally study the maternal link to weight and cancer risk. This unusual study demonstrates a potential paternal link as well,' says the study author.

 

Obesity seems to sometimes run in families, as does some breast cancers. Maternal obesity is believed to influence both conditions in humans -- a woman who is heavy in pregnancy can produce larger babies, who may have increased risk of breast cancer later in life. But few if any studies have looked at the influence of dad's obesity on his offspring's cancer risk.

 

"This study provides evidence that, in animals, a fathers' body weight at the time of conception affects both their daughters' body weight both at birth and in childhood and likely their risk of breast cancer later in life," says the study's lead investigator, Sonia de Assis, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi. "Of course our study was done in mice, but it would be very interesting to know if the same associations hold for daughters of human fathers who were obese at the time of conception," she says.

 

"Researchers traditionally study the maternal link to weight and cancer risk. This unusual study demonstrates a potential paternal link as well," de Assis says. "Until we know about this association in men, we should stick to what we all know is good advice: women -- and men -- should eat a balanced diet not only for their own benefit but also to give their offspring's the best chances of being healthy.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140404140201.htm

Stress impacts ability to get pregnant

March 24, 2014

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2014/03/140324090406-large.jpg

Science Daily/Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Women who have trouble getting pregnant may be under too much stress, according to a new study. According to researchers, women who had the highest levels of stress actually took 29 percent longer to get pregnant compared to other women, and their risk of infertility doubled. Researchers tracked 501 American women ages 18 to 40 years who were free from known fertility problems and had just started trying to conceive, and followed them for 12 months or until they became pregnant.

 

"This is now the second study in which we have demonstrated that women with high levels of the stress biomarker salivary alpha-amylase have a lower probability of becoming pregnant, compared to women with low levels of this biomarker. For the first time, we've shown that this effect is potentially clinically meaningful, as it's associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women," said Lynch, the principal investigator of the LIFE Study's psychological stress protocol.

 

Lynch said results of this research should encourage women who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant to consider managing their stress using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness. However, she said that couples should not blame themselves if they are experiencing fertility problems, as stress is not the only or most important factor involved in a woman's ability to get pregnant.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140324090406.htm

Obesity, depression linked in teen girls

March 21, 2014

Science Daily/Rutgers University

Depression and obesity have long been associated, but how they relate over time is less clear. New research shows that adolescent females who experience one of the disorders are at a greater risk for the other as they get older. It is unknown why no associations across time between the two disorders were found in male adolescents, but researchers hypothesize that it could be a result of different developmental processes leading to obesity and depression in males and females.

 

"Adolescence is a key developmental period for both obesity and depression, so we thought it significant to look at the onset of these disorders at an early age," says Naomi Marmorstein, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers-Camden.

 

"When a person is young, she is still developing eating and activity patterns, as well as coping mechanisms," Marmorstein explains. "So if she experiences a depressive episode at age 14, she may be more at risk for having an onset of unhealthy patterns that persist."

 

"When an adolescent girl receives treatment for depression, the clinician might consider incorporating something relating to healthy eating and activity," she says. "Exercise can assist in the treatment of depression to begin with, so it seems like a good reason to combine prevention efforts for both depression and obesity."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140321095344.htm

Yoga regulates stress hormones, improves quality of life for women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy

March 3, 2014

Science Daily/University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

For women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy, yoga offers unique benefits beyond fighting fatigue, according to research.

 

Researchers found that while simple stretching exercises counteracted fatigue, patients who participated in yoga exercises that incorporated controlled breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan experienced improved ability to engage in their daily activities, better general health and better regulation of cortisol (stress hormone). Women in the yoga group were also better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience, which declined over time for the women in the other two groups.

 

Researchers found that while simple stretching exercises counteracted fatigue, patients who participated in yoga exercises that incorporated controlled breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan experienced improved ability to engage in their daily activities, better general health and better regulation of cortisol (stress hormone). Women in the yoga group were also better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience, which declined over time for the women in the other two groups.

 

The study also assessed, for the first time, yoga benefits in cancer patients by comparing their experience with patients in an active control group who integrated simple, generic stretching exercises into their lives.

 

"Combining mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching," said Cohen.

 

Researchers found that while simple stretching exercises counteracted fatigue, patients who participated in yoga exercises that incorporated controlled breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan experienced improved ability to engage in their daily activities, better general health and better regulation of cortisol (stress hormone). Women in the yoga group were also better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience, which declined over time for the women in the other two groups.

 

The study also assessed, for the first time, yoga benefits in cancer patients by comparing their experience with patients in an active control group who integrated simple, generic stretching exercises into their lives.

 

"Combining mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching," said Cohen.

 

"The transition from active therapy back to everyday life can be very stressful as patients no longer receive the same level of medical care and attention. Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140303163147.htm

Father's age tied to higher rates of psychiatric, academic problems in kids

February 26, 2014

Science Daily/Indiana University

Advancing paternal age can lead to higher rates of psychiatric and academic problems in offspring than previously estimated. Compared to a children born to a 24-year-old father, children born to a 45-year-old father are 3.5 times more likely to have autism, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, twice as likely to have psychotic disorders and 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder.

 

Examining an immense data set -- everyone born in Sweden from 1973 until 2001 -- the researchers documented a compelling association between advancing paternal age at childbearing and numerous psychiatric disorders and educational problems in their children, including autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, suicide attempts and substance abuse problems. Academic problems included failing grades, low educational attainment and low IQ scores.

 

Among the findings: When compared to a child born to a 24-year-old father, a child born to a 45-year-old father is 3.5 times more likely to have autism, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, two times more likely to have a psychotic disorder, 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder and 2.5 times more likely to have suicidal behavior or a substance abuse problem. For most of these problems, the likelihood of the disorder increased steadily with advancing paternal age, suggesting there is no particular paternal age at childbearing that suddenly becomes problematic.

 

"We were shocked by the findings," said Brian D'Onofrio, lead author and associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. "The specific associations with paternal age were much, much larger than in previous studies.

 

In fact, we found that advancing paternal age was associated with greater risk for several problems, such as ADHD, suicide attempts and substance use problems, whereas traditional research designs suggested advancing paternal age may have diminished the rate at which these problems occur."

 

This study and others like it, however, perhaps signal some of the unforeseen, negative consequences of a relatively new trend in human history. As such, D'Onofrio said, it may have important social and public policy implications. Given the increased risk associated with advancing paternal age at childbearing, policy-makers may want to make it possible for men and women to accommodate children earlier in their lives without having to set aside other goals.

 

"While the findings do not indicate that every child born to an older father will have these problems," D'Onofrio said, "they add to a growing body of research indicating that advancing paternal age is associated with increased risk for serious problems. As such, the entire body of research can help to inform individuals in their personal and medical decision-making."

Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

February 26, 2014

Science Daily/Penn State

Overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are 'eating for two' are more likely to experience excessive weight gain while pregnant, according to research. Researchers interviewed 29 post-partum women who were overweight or obese before pregnancy. Participants in the study were asked about their diet habits, experience with morning sickness and physical activity habits during pregnancy.

 

Those who gained the appropriate amount of weight stuck to a meal plan and chose foods carefully. These women also had little or no increase in the amount of calories they consumed during pregnancy and exercised as much or more than they had before the pregnancy. Women who gained excessive weight described the experience as "eating for two." They had fewer goals and exercised less than usual during their pregnancy. They also made less healthy food choices and ate more as a result of cravings.

 

Too much weight gain during pregnancy can lead to postpartum and long-term weight gain and obesity. It can also cause premature birth and other unfavorable events. Women should be advised and receive feedback on weight gain goals by prenatal care providers before pregnancy or early into it.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226095252.htm

Use of acetaminophen during pregnancy linked to ADHD in children

February 25, 2014

 

Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles

Taking acetaminophen during pregnancy has been shown to be associated with a higher risk in children of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Hyperkinetic Disorders, new research indicates.

 

Acetaminophen, found in over-the-counter products such as Excedrin and Tylenol, provides many people with relief from headaches and sore muscles. Over recent decades, the drug has become the medication most commonly used by pregnant women for fevers and pain, as it was believed to be harmless to the fetus. Now, a long-term study has raised concerns about the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

 

Now, a long-term study by UCLA, in collaboration with the University of Aarhus in Denmark, has raised concerns about the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

 

In a report in the current online edition of JAMA Pediatrics, researchers from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health show that taking acetaminophen during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk in children of attention-deficity/hyperactivity disorder and hyperkinetic disorder. The data raises the question of whether the drug should be considered safe for use by pregnant women.

 

ADHD, one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders worldwide, is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, increased impulsivity, and motivational and emotional dysregulation. Hyperkinetic disorder is a particularly severe form of ADHD.

 

"The causes of ADHD and hyperkinetic disorder are not well understood, but both environmental and genetic factors clearly contribute," said Dr. Beate Ritz, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at the Fielding School and one of the senior authors of the paper.

 

"We know there has been a rapid increase in childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD, over the past decades, and it's likely that the rise is not solely attributable to better diagnoses or parental awareness. It's likely there are environmental components as well."

 

"That gave us the motivation to search for environmental causes that are avoidable," said the University of Aarhus' Dr. Jørn Olsen, another senior author and former chair of the UCLA Fielding School's epidemiology department.

 

"Part of the neuropathology may already be present at birth, making exposures during pregnancy and/or infancy of particular interest. Because acetaminophen is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever during pregnancy, it was something we thought we should look at."

 

More than half of all the mothers reported using acetaminophen while pregnant. The researchers found that children whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were at a 13 percent to 37 percent higher risk of later receiving a hospital diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder, being treated with ADHD medications or having ADHD-like behaviors at age 7.

 

The longer acetaminophen was taken -- that is, into the second and third trimesters -- the stronger the associations. The risks for hyperkinetic disorder/ADHD in children were elevated 50 percent or more when the mothers had used the common painkiller for more than 20 weeks in pregnancy.

 

"It's known from animal data that acetaminophen is a hormone disruptor, and abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development," Ritz said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225101656.htm

 

Two-thirds of women in the U.K. not taking folic acid before pregnancy to prevent spina bifida

- February 19, 2014

Science Daily/Queen Mary, University of London

Research published today from Queen Mary University of London reveals less than 1 in 3 women have taken folic acid supplements before pregnancy to prevent spina bifida and other birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord (neural tube defects). This is despite research from 1991 showing that such conditions could be prevented in most cases by increasing the intake of the B-vitamin folic acid before pregnancy.

 

The study, carried out by Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and published in the journal PLOS ONE, questioned nearly half a million women attending antenatal screening between 1999 and 2012 in England and the Isle of Man. The proportion of women taking folic acid supplements decreased from 35% in 1999-2001 to 31% in 2011-2012.

 

The study also showed strong ethnic variations with only 17% of Afro-Caribbean women, 20% of South Asian women and 25% of East Asian women taking folic acid supplements, compared with 35% of Caucasian women. In addition, only 6% of women under 20 were taking folic acid supplements compared with 40% of women aged 35 to 39.

 

Women who had previously had a pregnancy involving neural tube defects were more likely to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy than women who had not, but still only half of them did (51%) in spite of their high risk of a recurrence.

 

Over 70 countries, including the US and Australia, have introduced mandatory folic acid fortification to reduce the risk of women having a pregnancy affected with neural tube defects. Despite recommendations from the Food Standards Agency to fortify flour with folic acid, and evidence that folic acid fortification is effective, neither the UK nor any other EU country has mandated this.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219174853.htm

Air pollution increases risk for hypertension in pregnant women

- February 13, 2014

Science Daily/University of Florida

Breathing the air outside their homes may be just as toxic to pregnant women -- if not more so -- as breathing in cigarette smoke, increasing a mom-to-be's risk of developing deadly complications such as preeclampsia, according to findings from a new study.

 

UF researchers compared birth data with Environmental Protection Agency estimates of air pollution, finding that heavy exposure to four air pollutants led to a significantly increased risk for developing a high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy. The research was published in the January issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 

The pollutants include two specific types of fine and coarse particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. According to the EPA, particulate matter includes acids, dust, metals and soil particles. These inhalable particles are released from industries and forest fires and can form when gases react with each other in the air. Sulfur dioxide is emitted from power plants and industries. Most carbon monoxide is produced by car exhaust.

 

"Fetal development is very sensitive to environmental factors," said Xiaohui Xu, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology in the colleges of Public Health and Health Professions and Medicine. "That is why we wanted to do this research. Hypertension (high blood pressure), in particular, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, causing a lot of problems for the mother and fetus, including preterm delivery."

 

Hypertensive disorders such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and the deadly condition it leads to, eclampsia, affect about 10 percent of pregnancies. Despite the serious risks to mother and baby, little is known about what specifically causes these conditions to develop in pregnant women, the researchers say.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213122421.htm

Autism: Birth hormone may control expression of the syndrome in animals

February 6, 2014

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2014/02/140206142121-large.jpg

Science Daily/INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale)

A new article demonstrates that chloride levels are abnormally elevated from birth in the neurons of mice used in an animal model of autism. Researchers show for the first time that oxytocin, the birth hormone, brings about a decrease in chloride level during birth, which controls the expression of the autistic syndrome.

 

The scientific community agrees that autism has its origins in early life -- fetal and/or postnatal. The team led by Yehezkel Ben-Ari, Inserm Emeritus Research Director at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology (INMED), has made a breakthrough in the understanding of the disorder.

 

In an article published in Science, the researchers demonstrate that chloride levels are elevated in the neurons of mice used in an animal model of autism, and remain at abnormal levels from birth.

 

These results corroborate the success obtained with the diuretic treatment tested on autistic children by the researchers and clinicians in 2012, and suggest that administration of diuretics to mice before birth corrects the deficits in the offspring.

 

They also show that oxytocin, the birth hormone, brings about a decrease in chloride level during birth, which controls the expression of the autistic syndrome.

 

"These data validate our treatment strategy, and suggest that oxytocin, by acting on the chloride levels during delivery modulates/controls the expression of autism spectrum disorder," states Yehezkel Ben-Ari.

 

Taken together, these observations suggest that earliest possible treatment is essential for maximum possible prevention of the disorder.

 

This work raises the importance of carrying out early epidemiological studies in order to better understand the pathogenesis of the disorder, especially through analysing data on deliveries where a drop in chloride has occurred. Indeed, complicated deliveries with episodes of prolonged lack of oxygen, for example, or complications during pregnancy, such as viral infections, are often suggested as risk factors.

 

Finally, given the role of oxytocin in triggering labour, "although it is true that epidemiological data suggesting that scheduled caesarean deliveries may have increased the incidence of autism are controversial, it nonetheless remains that these studies should be followed up and extended in order to confirm or refute this relationship, which is still possible," insists Yehezkel Ben-Ari, who concludes, "To treat this type of disorder, it is necessary to understand how the brain develops and how genetic mutations and environmental insults modulate brain activity in utero."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206142121.htm

Links traced between race, stress and inflammation to help decrease preterm birth disparities

- February 5, 2014

Science Daily/Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science

African American women today are almost twice as likely to deliver a preterm baby as white, Hispanic or Asian women in the US - a disparity that medical conditions, socioeconomic status, access to prenatal care and health behaviors haven’t been able to fully account for.

 

Two new studies explore the complex relationship between race, stress and inflammation and potential impacts on pregnancy in the hope of reducing preterm births and infant mortality, and improving maternal mental health.

 

Each year, a half million babies in the United States are born too early, causing complications that make prematurity the number one cause of infant death in the country. African American women are almost two times more likely to deliver a preterm baby than women of other races, a disparity that is not been fully explained by socioeconomic status, access to healthcare, or health behaviors.

 

Now, by exploring the complex associations between race, stress, inflammation and pregnancy, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have uncovered biological and behavioral clues that could help lead to new interventions and ideas for reducing premature births.

 

"Psychological stress, including the stress of racial discrimination, has been associated with risk for preterm birth in many studies. However, we know little about the biological mechanisms that may contribute to this increased risk," said lead author Lisa Christian, PhD, an assistant professor of Psychiatry and the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR) at Ohio State.

 

"Prior studies suggest that, during healthy pregnancy, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to stress are dampened. This study examined whether this dampening also occurs in relation to stress-induced inflammation. And, if so, do African American women show such dampening to the same extent as white women."

 

Race, acute stress trigger exaggerated inflammatory response

In a study of white and African American women, both pregnant and non-pregnant, Christian's team found that African American women showed stronger inflammatory response to acute psychological stress.

 

"Statistically, African-Americans have a higher incidence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. If women are comparing themselves to others in their community who have serious illnesses, then they may think that they are doing pretty good in comparison," said Christian. "Understanding this point of view gives clinicians opportunities to probe a little more during prenatal visits."

 

Christian notes that more research is needed to better understand the complex relationship between such diverse factors like inflammation, race and pregnancy, but says that her research has a very basic message about maternal mental health that applies to all women.

 

"Women who are very conscientious about their health behaviors, such as taking prenatal vitamins and avoiding alcohol, may not take the same time to focus on their emotional well-being," said Christian.

 

"I would tell an expecting mother to work with her doctors to proactively address life stressors. That way she can not only enjoy her pregnancy and prepare for the new baby, but she may ultimately improve her pregnancy outcomes and help her developing baby."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140205091530.htm

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