Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the week ending April 9, 2017.

Money for Women and Infants

Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island has just been given an eleven million dollar, five-year grant for women’s health research from the National Institutes of Health. Hopefully it will still come through even if the NIH’s budget gets cut. Read more here.

This is important for you because more research into women’s health issues is always welcome.

The boy with three parents

Last April, a fertility clinic in New York made a baby boy with three parents: the mother, the father, and a woman with healthy mitochondria, since the mother had a disease-causing mutation in her mitochondrial DNA. Both scientists and ethicists were apprehensive about the technique and its ramifications. This April – for the boy’s first birthday? – the team responsible revealed details about the baby and the procedure. He has a small percentage of diseased mitochondria from his mother, and it is not certain how this will impact his health in the future. Read more here.

This is important for you because regardless of whether or not you are concerned about heritable diseases, it is interesting to keep track of advances in reproductive technologies and their societal impacts.

The Brexit is pretty distressing

A recent meta-analysis – a compilation of many similar studies, in this case 28 of them – just tried to ascertain the prevalence of colic in developed countries. Colic is defined as crying for more than three hours a day for at least three days a week. The meta-analysis, which included 87,000 babies, found that babies in the UK, Italy, and Canada cry the most; those in Denmark, Germany, and Japan cry the least; and those in the US, Australia, and the Netherlands fell somewhere in the middle. The researchers don’t know the cause of the difference. Read more here.

This is important for you because when you want to tear your hair out because your baby won’t stop screaming, just remember that it could be worse – you could live in London.

What, exactly, is in mother’s milk?

We know that breast milk is an amazing substance – but we don’t actually know that much about it. We know more about the components of coffee and wine (also, admittedly, amazing substances). Dr. Katie Hinde, an anthropologist at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, refers to mother’s milk as “food, medicine, and signal,” and notes that it both “grows the body and fuels behavior.” Watch and listen to her TED talk about the wonders of breast milk and the importance of promoting an infrastructure that supports nursing mothers here; follow her blog, Mammals Suck, here.

This is important for you because nursing isn’t always easy, or even feasible. If you can manage it, appreciate the nourishment you are able to give your baby.

So much for a post-recession fertility rebound

Fertility rates in the US continue to drop. The downward trend is especially notable among immigrants and millennials, with birthrates among women in their twenties at historic lows. It is possible that they are just deferring motherhood and intend to have babies when they get older – but even if that is their intent now, demographers are unsure if it will actually happen. Economists had speculated that people would start having babies again once the economy picked up again, but that has not yet come to pass. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you are a millennial, congratulate yourself for bucking a national trend!

The most popular article in The Pulse this week was 10 Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding. Much like when you were pregnant, alcohol tops the list; it may also be wise to avoid foods with string flavors like onion, garlic, and chilis (although some babies like them!); herbs with medicinal uses like peppermint, sage, and parsley (which can all repress milk production); and cruciferous vegetables, which can make your baby gassy. Read it here.

Diana Gitig
Dr. Diana Gitig has a Ph.D. in cell biology and genetics from Cornell University, and has been writing about issues in biology – from molecular biology to cancer to immunology to neuroscience to nutrition to agriculture - for the past fifteen years. She has three teenaged children.

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