I’ve composed this list of research and reports from around the world and thought I’d post them again.
Take them for what they are, and only that. Enjoy!
Prenatal Folic Acid
By now, everyone must know of the importance of folic acid in the diet of mothers-to-be. However, women taking prescription vitamins may be getting shortchanged. Researchers at the University of Maryland have noticed that such vitamins don’t dissolve well. Of the preparations they tested, two-thirds released less than 75 percent of the amount listed on the label in standard one hour tests. The author of the study cautions that these supplements may provide “inadequate” nutrition.1 1. Steven Hoag, University of Maryland.
A study of nearly 600 children sponsored by the World Health Organization concludes that the calcium intake of a mother during pregnancy can influence the blood pressure of her offspring. Systolic pressure was lower in older children whose mothers took two grams of calcium a day while pregnant, compared to those taking a placebo. The effect was especially noticeable in overweight children.8 8. British Medical Journal, August 2, 1997.
Hungry Mothers Have Weak Babies
Research in Gambia is illustrating how important prenatal nutrition is to children. In Gambia, the months of July through October are known as the “hungry season,” when food is scarce but work is hard. Researchers found that children born at that time were up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely by the time they were young adults, mostly from infective disease. The study spanned over 40 years.12 12. Reuter, July 30, 1997.
Phenobarbital Lowers I.Q.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association1 reveals that males who were exposed to phenobarbital while still in their mothers’ wombs show a seven percent decrease in intelligence as adults. Other prenatal factors decreasing I.Q. turn out to be maternal poverty and unwanted pregnancy, combining with the drug treatment to lower I.Q. by an average of 20 percent. It is estimated that there are 23 million Americans who were exposed to the drug in utero. 1. JAMA, November 15, 1995.
Cerebral Palsy Lessened by Pre-Eclampsia
A report in the Lancet medical journal11 detailing the relationship between chorioamionitis (a prenatal bacterial infection) and cerebral palsy, describes another interesting finding. Researchers found a significant decrease in babies born with cerebral palsy when the mothers experienced pre-eclampsia, normally considered a bad syndrome. No medical treatment was rendered for the elevated blood pressure and blood albumin, so apparently the syndrome itself seems to offer some benefit to the baby. The authors suggested that further investigation was urgently needed. Factors increasing the incidence of cerebral palsy were maternal infections (such as the chorioamionitis) and premature rupture of the membranes. 11. Lancet, December 2, 1995.
Let Your Body Rest After Pregnancy
The report in the New England Journal of Medicine that describes increased risk of infant mortality with back-to-back pregnancies may shed some light on why infant mortality rate is so high among blacks in America. The study found that black women tripled their risk of premature delivery if they became pregnant before nine months of their last delivery. White women however, for a reason not yet clear, needed only a three month interval. The study was conducted at an Army hospital where the economic status and quality of prenatal care of the women were nearly identical.
A study conducted at the University of California7 suggests that psychological stress in a pregnant woman can translate into temperamental and behavioral difficulties in her offspring. This preliminary research involved 120 infants and toddlers, relating maternal stress during pregnancy to resultant behavior using interviews and psychological testing.8 7. By Dr. Pathik Wadhwa et al., University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. 8. Presented to the 19th annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, March 26, 1998.
More Prenatal Care Better?
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that pregnant women in both high and low-risk groups have received more prenatal care in the United States in recent years. However, at the same time for some reason, premature and low-weight births increased as well.16 Explanations range from suggestions that the wrong women are getting care to problems associated with overutilization of invasive procedures. 16. Journal of the American Medical Association, May 24, 1998
Teenagers Not Ready for Pregnancy
A new study at the University of Utah concludes that most premature births to teenager mothers are not due to poverty and poor prenatal care as is commonly believed, but are more a result of the mother’s youth. Middle-class teenagers were nearly twice as likely to deliver prematurely as older women.3 The reason for this is not understood, though researchers speculate that teenage girls require more nutrients and energy because their bodies are still growing, thus creating a competition between the baby and mother. About 13 percent of all births in the United States are to teenage mothers.
Eczema and Yogurt
Another study published in the Lancet7 suggests that prenatal and six-month postnatal supplementation of lactobacillus Gorbach Goldin (LGG) can significantly reduce incidence of eczema in the offspring. This was a double-blind study of 132 pregnancies and subsequent births. The babies were checked for a diagnosis of eczema at age two. The rate of eczema in the lactobacillus group was half that of those given placebos. These children were all considered high risk, as a close relative had been diagnosed with eczema. The lactobacillus was given in the form of capsules. 7. The Lancet, April 7, 2001.
Ecstatic Memory Problems
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that the drug ecstasy, when used during pregnancy, can result in learning and memory problems. The drug, given to rats at the equivalent of a human’s third trimester, produced problems with learning how to navigate mazes that lasted into adulthood. Reference: Journal of Neuroscience, May 1, 2001
Breast Feeding and Pregnancy Don’t Hurt Bones
The findings of British researchers who studied new mothers recently should help calm the fears of women worried about osteoporosis. Their study concludes that pregnancy and breast feeding are no reason to worry about osteoporosis later in life. The doctors measured bone densities in women for a number of years before and after weaning their children. They found that while some did lose bone calcium while nursing, it was later replaced when there was more available in the mother’s system.2 Many people, doctors included, seem to have trouble grasping the concept that osteoporosis is due to a loss of bone substrate, while a simple loss of calcium would cause the bones to soften, as in osteomalacia. 2. The Lancet, May 24, 1997.
Marijuana: How Addictive?
Research from the Medical College of Virginia suggests that marijuana is more addictive than many think. Rat studies there produced bizarre symptoms when the drug was withheld, such as arching backs, walking backwards, and what they call “wet-dog shakes.”11 Another study has found late effects on children whose mothers smoked marijuana during pregnancy. At age 4, the children began showing signs of impairment of verbal reasoning and memory. Attention spans suffered by age 7, and by their pre-teen years they were less able to do strategic planning.12 Marijuana use in the United States was declining until 1992; it has been steadily increasing since then. 11. Presented at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Conference on Marijuana, July 19, 1996. 12. Peter Fried from Carlton University in Ontario, presenting at the same conference.
A study by neurological researchers8 offers “concrete evidence”9 that a pregnant woman’s intellectual abilities decrease during the final month or two of her pregnancy. The women performed 15 to 20 percent poorer on learning and cognitive tests during the last month than they did a few weeks after delivery. This surprised the researchers, who expected the higher estrogen levels of pregnancy to enhance mental ability. Another group of researchers at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London says that women’s brains temporarily shrink during pregnancy. 8. J. Galen Buckwalter, et al., from the University of Southern California. The findings were presented at an international symposium in Orlando on February 7, 1997. 9. United Press, February 7, 1997.
Abortion and Cancer — Again
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health7 suggests that abortions may increase a woman’s breast cancer risk. This work encompassed 23 studies on 60,000 women. One of the authors theorizes that the effect is caused by breast cells being stimulated to grow and replicate during pregnancy, but never having the chance to fulfill their ultimate function. He thinks that these immature cells, having nothing better to do, go bad and begin to cause trouble. That would seem to fit in with general patterns apparent in other areas of life … 7. JECH, October, 1996.
D & C Study
A study published in the January 14th issue of The Lancet concludes that most women who suffer a miscarriage within the first 13 weeks of their pregnancy do not need the dilatation and curettage surgery routinely given. In fact, the surgery itself more than triples the rate of infection. Without the surgery, bleeding lasts for slightly more than a day longer, but some feel that this is part of the body’_s way of expelling remaining fetal tissue. Miscarriage occurs in about 15 percent of all pregnancies.
A British researcher6 reports that awareness and memory may develop sooner that previously thought, and in a different area of the brain. The cerebral cortex is thought to not be sufficiently developed by the 20th week of pregnancy to store memories. However, he has found that unusual melodies listened to by theŒ three weeks after birth. He hypothesizes that the thalamus is responsible for this learning. Some scientists feel that this and other studies may help relate some behaviors to early pre-birth trauma. 6. Stephen Evans of Kelle University in central England, reporting to a meeting of the British Psychological Society, March 29, 1998
Pregnancy Drug Warning
The FDA, prompted by the National Women’s Health Network, has issued warnings against the use of at-home terbutaline pumps. These are devices used by thousands of pregnant women in the hopes of preventing premature labor. The device continuously pumps the asthma drug “terbutaline” into the women’s system. This drug is not approved for such use, though many hospitals use it for that purpose routinely. The FDA says there is no evidence that it does any good, and quite a lot (including at least one woman’s death) that it is harmful.13 13. Associated Press, November 19, 1997.
High U.S. Infant Mortality May Be Due to Term, Not Weight
The infant mortality rate of Norway is among the lowest in the world. The United States does poorly by comparison. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina are attributing the U.S.’s poor showing to high numbers of preterm births. Most previous research attributes the difference to birth weight, but this study took into account the term of the pregnancy. The U.S. preterm birth rate is nearly 50 percent higher than that of Norway, and when you remove those from the equation, there is not much difference in the statistics of the two countries.8
Heavy Workload during Pregnancy Robs Baby
In a preliminary report of a study10 of pregnant women in active jobs, researchers conclude that long periods of activity will lower the birth weight of the baby. The effect is most pronounced during the second trimester when rapid growth is occurring. Lack of periodic rest is blamed for a large part of the problem, but it was also discovered that many of the women were so busy they were skipping meals. A more conclusive data analysis will be available in about a year.
Acne Drug and Birth Defects
Back in 1988, after Accutane (isotretinoin) was suspected of causing dozens of birth defects, the drug was nearly banned. However, the manufacturer agreed to implement an extensive program, concurrent with their marketing plan, to eliminate the chance that women taking the drug might become pregnant. While the program has been very effective, there are still a lot of women who don’t realize the possible implications of having the drug in their system when they conceive a child. Also, many physicians are not following required federal guidelines when prescribing the drug, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.9 For example, the FDA requires a pregnancy test before administration of the drug, but about one-third of women surveyed reported no pregnancy test before initiation of the regimen.
Zinc Supplementation during Pregnancy
A study of 420 Bangladesh infants suggests that mothers who have an adequate supply of zinc in their diets during pregnancy produce healthier babies. More than 40 percent of the babies in this study had low birth weight, suggesting nonoptimal nutrition, and zinc did not appear to make a difference in birth weight. But babies from zinc-supplemented pregnancies had 32 percent less diarrhea,5 a 61 percent less incidence of impetigo, and 74 percent less dysentery.6 5. http://www.babyworld.co.uk/news/Apr01/100201zincboosts growth.html 6. The Lancet, April 7, 2001.
Folic Acid in Pregnancy
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms the significance of folic acid in preventing birth defects. This study focused on medications that interact with the nutrient. Among pregnant women who took such medications, the incidence of cleft palate, heart defects, or urinary defects were two to three times higher than normal. Drugs that block folic acid include certain antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and epilepsy treatments.5 5. NEJM, November 30, 2000.
Epilepsy Drugs during Pregnancy
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine9 reinforces earlier studies that have reported increased birth defects when women take anti-epilepsy drugs during pregnancy. However, this study goes further in comparing the risks when the medication is withheld. Often, doctors will continue to prescribe the drugs thinking that uncontrolled seizures will also cause birth defects; however, this study contradicts that belief. The women who abstained from the drugs showed no significant increase in birth defects compared to a normal control group. This research also suggests that switching medications during pregnancy amplifies the risk, and that the drugs often considered safer during pregnancy (such as phenobarbital) actually may be worse. 9. NEJM, April 12, 2001.
Pregnancy Helps Prevent Cancer
According to a study published in the journal Genetics,4 pregnancy relatively early in life activates a gene5 that helps females resist breast cancer. The researchers suggest that the effect may be permanent. This study was done on mice, but correlates with other studies showing that women who give birth at age 18 have less than half the risk of breast cancer as someone who waits until age 30.
Placenta Size Related to Maternal Protein Intake
A study at Baylor College of Medicine has found that restricting protein intake during pregnancy can decrease the size of the placenta by 21 percent, at least in pigs. This decreased size seems to have impaired the transport of nutrients to the fetus, stunting fetal growth.6 When protein intake was increased later in the pregnancy, the diminished nutrient transportation problem persisted, suggesting that the stunting is irreversible.
More Problems with Teen Pregnancies
Teenage pregnancies have been associated with low birth weight babies; now researchers are saying that severe birth defects are also more likely. A study by the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program17 of more than a million births finds that children born to teenage moms are 11 percent more likely to have birth defects when compared to those born to mothers in their 20s. That translates to about one out of every 32 births to adolescents. Problem areas include the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, limbs, and intestines.18
Anxious Mothers and Anorexia
A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry11 suggests that a strong contributor to anorexia nervosa in teenage girls is the anxiety level of their mothers during pregnancy and the girls’ upbringing. Three times as many mothers of the anorexic group in this study had experienced a stillbirth or miscarried pregnancy before giving birth to their daughters. The researchers believe that the mothers projected their anxieties and insecurities onto their offspring, both during pregnancy and childhood. These mothers were also more distressed when their daughters first started nursery school. As the girls grew older, the girls that eventually suffered from anorexia were typically the last ones allowed to spend a night away from home. 11. BJP, February 1, 2000.
Birth Defects from Solvents
A Canadian study of 250 women concludes that common solvents found in a wide variety of work environments can lead to birth defects in humans. Half of the women had been working with industrial solvents during the first three months of their pregnancy. Thirteen of these bore children with defects such as deafness, clubfoot, neural tube defects and other major malformations. The concentration of the chemicals in many of these environments was strong enough to cause symptoms such as eye irritation, headaches or respiratory problems. Among the control group exposed to only agents not generally considered toxic, only one baby had a birth defect.9 9. JAMA, March 24, 1999.
Epson Salts for Eclampsia
United Kingdom researchers have found that Epsom salts, which has been used by some to treat eclampsia for as many as the past 60 years, is more than twice as effective as two of the most popular newer drugs, diazepam and phenytoin. The study involved 1,680 women in nine countries.4 It makes you wonder how such new drugs come to be so popular in the first place.
Vitamins for Preeclampsia
A study published in The Lancet13 reports that vitamins C and E have a protective effect against preeclampsia. Women at high risk of the disorder who were given supplements (1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E daily) experienced the problem at less than half the rate of a placebo group. Three hundred women were involved in the study. A similar but larger study is now being planned to verify the results. 13. The Lancet, September 4, 1999