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Healthbytes – Pregnancy and Risks

4 Dec



Some pregnant women develop some strange appetites. If one of those happens to be crispy burnt potato chips you might want to use all your will power to resist the craving. New research shows that Women who eat crisps or chips every day may double their chances of having ovarian or womb cancer.  Apparently  acrylamides, chemicals produced when you fry, grill or roast some foods is the route of the problem.

Dutch researchers talked to over 120,000 people on their eating habits, and found that women who ate more acrylamide appeared more at risk but they’re quick to add that there is no need to panic.

 Another reason to Watch your WeightObesity is now claimed, as the reason there is an increase in women dying during pregnancy and childbirth in the UK.  Research shows that more than half of 294 women who died during or after pregnancy between 2003 and 2005 were overweight or obese.  While this is not an alarming number, the trend is worth noting.  Women need to watch their weight even during pregnancy.Female babies may be programmed to be anorexia  Research shows that the hormones released to help female development in the womb may be the key to why some babies  go on to develop anorexia. Researchers believe that babies may be programmed in the womb by their mother’s hormones. Evidence shows that women are usually much more likely than men to have eating disorder, but a University of Sussex study found men with a female twin were more at risk.

Breastfeeding gives babies higher IQ

11 Nov

If you find yourself more forgetful during your pregnancy, fear not. It’s no big thing. This will pass after you give birth. A new study is shining some light on pregnancy and memory loss.   The trick is to develop a plan to compensate for your memory lapse e.g. post in notes, phone calls to yourself, text messaging. In others use new technology to help you get through this period. New research also show that children who are breast fed even for a short amount of time appears to have a higher IQ than babies who are not breastfed.

Eating for two is old school idea

27 Jul

July 24, 2007

Personal Health

Dispelling Pregnancy Myths: Eating for 1.5

Ivy had been eating tuna sushi almost every day. But before becoming pregnant, she wisely had a checkup, which revealed high levels of mercury in her blood that could damage a fetus. Shocked, she stopped eating tuna and postponed pregnancy until the mercury had cleared her system. Last month she gave birth to a full-term healthy boy.

Mercury from eating certain kinds of seafood is just one of many nutrition-related hazards that can confront a pregnant woman or one who wishes to become pregnant. At the same time, some pregnant women worry needlessly about nonexistent nutritional risks.

The March of Dimes, which strives to make every pregnancy as well-planned and successful as Ivy’s, is making a new push to dispel nutritional misinformation and replace it with advice based on solid scientific evidence. Some of the advice may come as a distressing surprise to women, who may be fond of foods or drinks that could endanger their pregnancy.

For example, pregnant women are advised to steer clear of deli meats, including sliced turkey, unless they are fully cooked again before being eaten. But the March of Dimes, among other experts, suggests that it is safe to drink one or two cups of caffeinated coffee a day during pregnancy, whereas consuming too much herbal tea (and three or more cups of coffee a day) can be risky and may result in a miscarriage.

A Healthy Diet

The organization is also concerned about the current notion among some women that it is O.K. to gain 40 or more pounds when pregnant with one baby. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy not only makes it harder to shed the extra pounds after childbirth. It also increases the risk to the mother of gestational diabetes, dangerous rises in blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), the need for a Caesarean delivery and postpartum infection. For the baby, a mother’s excessive weight gain raises the risk of neural tube defects, birth trauma and fetal death near term.

Studies of tens of thousands of pregnancies showed that how much a pregnant woman should gain for the best chance of a healthy outcome for both mother and baby depends on how much she weighed before becoming pregnant.

Accordingly, the March of Dimes suggests that normal-weight women should gain 25 to 35 pounds; overweight women 15 to 25 pounds, and underweight women 28 to 40 pounds. But a woman having a multiple birth should gain more, depending on how many babies she is carrying.

When a woman is eating for two, or better yet, when she is contemplating getting pregnant, is an ideal time to learn the principles of good nutrition and put them into practice. The basics of a healthy diet during pregnancy are the same as what everyone should eat at any time of life:

¶Whole grains, like brown rice, whole wheat bread or whole oat cereal: 6 to 11 servings a day

¶Dairy products, like low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt or hard cheese: 3 to 4 servings a day

¶Protein, like meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts or eggs: 3 to 4 servings a day

¶Vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes or beets: 3 to 5 servings a day

¶Fruits, like oranges, bananas or apples: 2 to 4 servings a day

The trick is to know what a portion means because “eating for two” does not mean a woman should double her caloric intake. Only 300 additional calories a day are needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy, provided those calories come from nutritious foods.

Here are some examples of a single serving: one slice of bread, a half-cup of rice or pasta, one cup cold cereal; one cup milk or yogurt, two one-inch cubes of cheese; two ounces of cooked meat, poultry or fish, a half-cup of cooked dried beans, two tablespoons peanut butter; a half-cup of cooked or cut-up vegetables, one cup salad greens, three-quarters cup of vegetable juice; one apple, banana or orange, a half-cup of cut-up fruit, three-quarters cup of fruit juice.

Be sure, too, to drink plenty of water — up to 64 ounces a day — and get regular exercise. Pregnant women can walk, dance, swim and do yoga, but should avoid high-risk activities like scuba diving and skiing.

Foods to Avoid

Many popular foods are potentially dangerous during pregnancy. Pregnant women should refrain from the following:

Raw fish and shellfish, a possible source of the parasite Toxoplasma that can cause fetal blindness and brain damage.

Large predatory fish like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and albacore tuna (fresh or canned), which can contain risky levels of mercury. The Food and Drug Administration says to limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week, but it is acceptable to eat up to 12 ounces a week of chunk light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Undercooked or raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a meat thermometer and cook pork and ground beef to 160 degrees; beef, veal and lamb to 145 degrees; whole poultry to 180 degrees; and chicken breasts to 170 degrees.

Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses — feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela, unless the label says “made with pasteurized milk.” They may contain the food-poisoning bacteria Listeria that can cause miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or fatal newborn illness.

Hot dogs and deli meats, unless cooked until steaming hot. These can become contaminated with Listeria after processing.

Refrigerated pâtés, meat spreads and smoked seafood (unless it is cooked before you eat it). Canned versions are safe.

Soft-scrambled eggs and foods like homemade salad dressing and eggnog made with raw or lightly cooked eggs. Cook eggs until the white and yolk are firm to avoid salmonella poisoning.

Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean.

Herbal teas and supplements. Their safety in pregnancy is unstudied. Some, like black cohosh or large amounts of chamomile tea, can raise the risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

Alcohol, which can cause fetal damage, including mental retardation and abnormal behavior. Although an occasional drink may be all right, no safe amount has been established.

Extra Vitamins Needed

Pregnant women and those contemplating pregnancy are advised to take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 400 micrograms to 600 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, as well as 18 milligrams to 27 milligrams of iron to prevent iron-deficiency anemia, linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies.

But prenatal supplements do not contain enough calcium; 1,000 milligrams a day are needed to protect a pregnant woman’s bones and build strong bones and teeth in her baby. Be sure to eat enough calcium-rich foods, like milk, cheese and leafy greens, or take a calcium supplement daily.

Less sex or better contraceptives

3 Jul

The Teenage Birth Rate Has

Dropped to a 65-Year Low


By Jennifer Liss, WireTap
Posted on June 29, 2007, Printed on July 3, 2007

It should come as good news that in 2005 the teenage birth rate in the United States dropped to a 65-year low. Who’s behind ameliorating the problem? Champions of comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only advocates both claim credit for the findings in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics report.

Let’s posit this scenario: You’re 16. You buy a soda and a pack of condoms at the corner store. That afternoon you have sex. You know how to put on the condom because you were taught in your public high school. Anyway, the condom is just a backup. Your girlfriend is on the pill. Some people say your education has encouraged you to take a life-threatening health risk.

Here’s an alternative scenario: You’re the federal government. You’ve thrown over a billion dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage education. In a decade, you’ve transformed sex education in many states. Your message? There is no such thing as safe sex. Is your plan working? Your opponents say you’re better off throwing your money down a wishing well.

Who’s right?

According to Bill Albert, deputy director at the National Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy, “both ‘sides’ should declare victory.”

“The short answer is quite simple: both less sex and more contraception,” he wrote in an email. “Researchers disagree about the relative contribution of each to the overall declines in teen pregnancy, but all agree that it is some combination of less sexual activity and greater contraceptive use.”

Information equals safe sex

Monica Rodriguez, vice president of education and training at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, says that the birth rate is down mostly because of an increase in the consistent use of improved hormonal birth control methods, like the pill, the patch, the shot and the implant. Her claims are supported by the widely read report released in late 2006 that found that 86 percent of the decline in pregnancy risk can be attributed to improved contraceptive use and that 14 percent of the decline can be attributed to teens waiting longer to start having sex.

The decrease did not happen overnight. Abstinence didn’t instantaneously come into vogue. Nor was there a surge of birth control pill popping. Instead, there has been a steady drop in the number of teenage girls giving birth since 1991. That year the birth rate was at a record high of 61.8 per 1,000 teens. In 2005, the rate dropped to 40.4 births per 1,000 teens. The abortion rate among this age group is also going down.

Albert offers another piece in the puzzle. HIV prevention education may finally be “catching up.” It’s common, he says, for public health information to take a long time — even decades — to actually effect the way people behave.

Black teens changing course

Here’s another great thing: Black teens aged 15 to 17 experienced the steepest reduction in teen births. Some people surmise that the decrease is simply because the group with the highest rate will also have the greatest decline. But Dr. Michael A. Carrera, director of the Children’s Aid Society’s Stern National Adolescent Sexuality Training Center, thinks there’s more to it. He speculates that there is a connection between the declining black teen birthrate and the increased educational efforts — primarily through after school programs and community centers — in underserved urban communities. Many of those programs, he says, wisely take an integrated and holistic approach to preventing teen pregnancy.

“A beautifully framed sex education program will not get the job done unless you link it to all the other things that are getting in the way a making a young person whole … failing in school, poor housing, no primary care, no counselor, no one to confide in, no job or bank account,” he says.

No means no — until marriage

Libby Gray Macke who runs the wide-reaching abstinence program Project Reality believes that HIV-prevention education might actually be behind the spike in teen pregnancy close to two decades ago. At the time, Macke says, kids were given a green light on sex — as long as condoms were used. That message, she claims, simply did not prevent teen pregnancy.

Abstinence education, on the other hand, is working, Macke says. And adults are wrong to think that kids don’t buy into it. “Teenagers are savvier. They know that condoms may or may not protect them, and abstinence is a more realistic option.”

She points to a report released in 2003 that claimed increased abstinence was the major cause for the decline. However, the report has been widely criticized, most notably by the Guttmacher Institute, for having significant methodological flaws.

Young people harbor genuine concerns that they won’t be able to find a spouse who has not been scarred by early sexual initiation, Macke says. “I tell them: Don’t jump in the pool. If you’re already in the pool, get out. Increase number of uninfected people to choose from.”

Jumping out of the pool means getting out and staying out — until marriage. Abstinence has always been a part of comprehensive sex education. But Macke points out that waiting longer is not the same as waiting until marriage. This means no sex until you swap vows. No genital touching. No mutual masturbation. Even kissing can quickly escalate into below the neckline activity.

Holding out for a ring may seem like a ludicrous campaign in a society where as high as 95 percent of the population has sex before marriage. But Macke defends the sensibility of her cultural revolution by saying it is the only guarantee against unwanted pregnancy and STDs.

The abstinence-only message also seems to offensively disregard the experience of gay and lesbian youth for whom marriage is not even an option. But Macke says that all kids — gay or straight — understand the concept of “one partner for life.” To GLBT teens, she discourages experimentation.

Withholding information greatly alarms opponents who see teen sex as less of a question of “if,” but “when.” Rodriguez raises this concern: When young people who have only been exposed to abstinence-only education start having sex, will they know how to protect themselves?

“We need to be very clear with the message of protection, whether young people use it today or in the future,” Rodriguez says. “Condoms aren’t perfect, but they are way more effective than not using a condom at all.” She says that when programs focus on the failure rate of condoms, young people hear: Condoms don’t work. And that, she says, is misleading.

But this is how abstinence advocates see it: Condoms don’t work all of the time, and that means they don’t work. Most abstinence-only organizations provide no information on how to use and get contraceptives. “We don’t advocate for contraceptives,” says Macke. “It is important teenagers receive pure message.”

Government gives out big money to abstinence programs

The federal government has been supporting abstinence-only programming since the Reagan administration. But in 1996, the amount of support took a big leap. Through the Title V Welfare Reform Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now grants abstinence-only funds to the states, which then distribute the money. California is the only state that has never accepted Title V funds. Title V defines abstinence through an eight-point definition that includes statements such as: “Sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” In 2000 the federal government introduced a new, controversial stream of funding, Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grants. CBAE grants allow the federal government to bypass the state decision-making process and give directly to community organizations.

The opponents’ most vocal complaint against federal funding is that there is no substantial, scientific evidence that abstinence-only education is making teens safer. Here is another serious concern: Many Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC) are also receiving funds. Since the ’70s, CPCs have dissuaded pregnant women from aborting. But it wasn’t until the CPCs developed abstinence programming that they qualified for millions of dollars of federal funding. Opponents, such as SIECUS, claim that many of these organizations are dangerous conduits of false and fear-based information and a religious message.

As an example, SIECUS points to the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. It received close to $300,000 in CBAE funds in 2005. The center’s navigable website has a medical and professional tone — but misleading information. The passage it provides on suction-aspiration, the most commonly used method of abortion, refers to a fetus as a baby, a doctor as an abortionist, and implies great risk to the woman, which is inaccurate. “The abortionist then inserts a hollow plastic tube with a knife-like edge into the uterus. The suction tears the baby’s body into pieces.”

“The truth is that the declines in teen pregnancy and birthrates predate the large investment of money in abstinence-only programs,” Albert wrote. “Moreover, we simply do not know — nor does anyone — exactly how the investment in abstinence-only programs has played out; whether it has had an impact on the national level is not known and probably unknowable.”

Albert says that the same is true of more comprehensive sex education programs. He says we may know if a particular program has had a positive effect, but we can’t measure the impact of these programs on a national level.

The problem still exists

The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the western industrialized world. Whatever is working — abstinence education, comprehensive education, integrated education — we need more of it.

But, like parents arguing about how to teach their kid to skateboard, both abstinent and comprehensive sex advocates adamantly believe there is a right way.

One parent might say skateboarding can be dangerous. But if you’re going to do it, here’s some information. And wear a helmet. Meanwhile, the other parent says: Skateboarding? No way. It is dangerous. Don’t do it.

If the kid doesn’t get hurt, is it because she got on the board and was smart? Or lucky? Or because she didn’t get on at all?

Jennifer Liss is a writer living in San Francisco.

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