The number of days an expectant mother was deprived of electricity during Quebec’s 1998 Ice Storm predicts the epigenetic profile of her child, a new study found.
Scientists from the Douglas Mental Health Univ. Institute and McGill Univ. have detected a distinctive “signature” in the DNA of children born in the aftermath of the massive Quebec ice storm. Five months after the event, researchers recruited women who had been pregnant during the disaster and assessed their degrees of hardship and distress in a study called Project Ice Storm.
New data from the UN show that under-five mortality rates have dropped by 49 percent between 1990 and 2013. The average annual reduction has accelerated – in some countries it has even tripled – but overall progress is still short of meeting the global target of a two-thirds decrease in under-five mortality by 2015.
New estimates in Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014 show that in 2013, 6.3 million children under five died from mostly preventable causes, around 200,000 fewer than in 2012, but still equal to nearly 17,000 child deaths each day.
Treatment at the earliest age when symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear – sometimes in infants as young as six months old – significantly reduces symptoms so that, by age three, most who received the therapy had neither ASD nor developmental delay, a UC Davis MIND Institute research study has found.
The treatment, known as Infant Start, was administered over a six-month period to six- to 15-month-old infants who exhibited marked autism symptoms, such as decreased eye contact, social interest or engagement, repetitive movement patterns and a lack of intentional communication. It was delivered by the people who were most in tune with and spent the most time with the babies: their parents.
A team of UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students created an inexpensive pad that can be inserted into diapers to detect dehydration and bacterial infections in infants.
The product, which recently won an award that included a $10,000 prize at a national engineering design contest, operates much like a home pregnancy test or urine test strip. Chemical indicators change color when they come in contact with urine from an infant who is suffering from dehydration or a bacterial infection.
The first international standards for fetal growth and newborn size have been developed by a global team led by scientists from Oxford Univ. The international standards depict the desirable pattern of healthy growth for all babies everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity or country of birth. They provide 3rd, 10th, 50th, 90th and 97th centile curves for the growth of a baby during pregnancy (as measured by ultrasound) and for a baby’s size at birth according to gestational age (weight, length and head circumference).
Now, for the first time, all 120 million babies born each year across the world can be assessed using a common set of standards, reflecting how babies should grow when mothers have adequate health, nutrition, medical care and socioeconomic status. This means it will be possible to detect underweight and overweight babies early in life no matter where in the world they are born.
Thirty years ago, poor Brazilian women were paid for their breast milk, leaving their children at risk of malnourishment. Equipment at the few milk collection centers was so costly it limited the country’s ability to expand the program’s reach.
That has changed dramatically, thanks in part to Joao Arigio Guerrade Almeida, a chemist who has turned the Brazilian Milk Bank Network into a model studied by other countries and credited with helping slash infant mortality by two thirds.
Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Postnatal Depression
A new study of over 10,000 mothers has shown that women who breastfed their babies were at significantly lower risk of postnatal depression than those who did not.
The study, by researchers in the UK and Spain, and published in the journal Maternal and Child Health, shows that mothers who planned to breastfeed and who actually went on to breastfeed were around 50 percent less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned to, and who did not, breastfeed. Mothers who planned to breastfeed, but who did not go on to breastfeed, were over twice as likely to become depressed as mothers who had not planned to, and who did not, breastfeed.
Women with a vitamin D deficiency were nearly half as likely to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF) as women who had sufficient levels of the vitamin, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).
Long known for its role in bone health, vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is emerging as a factor in fertility. Animal studies have shown that the hormone, which is produced in the skin as a result of sun exposure as well as absorbed from some fortified foods, affects fertility in many mammals.
It’s rush hour in Philadelphia for thousands of baby toads as they hop across a busy residential street on a rainy summer night.
Why do toadlets cross the road? To get to the woods on the other side — where they will live, eat mosquitoes and grow up to be full-sized American toads, bufo Americanus. After a couple of years, they’ll make the reverse trek as adults — unless they get squashed by a car.
Infants exposed to rodent and pet dander, roach allergens and a wide variety of household bacteria in the first year of life appear less likely to suffer from allergies, wheezing and asthma, according to results of a study conducted by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and other institutions.
Previous research has shown that children who grow up on farms have lower allergy and asthma rates, a phenomenon attributed to their regular exposure to microorganisms present in farm soil. Other studies, however, have found increased asthma risk among inner-city dwellers exposed to high levels of roach and mouse allergens and pollutants. The new study confirms that children who live in such homes do have higher overall allergy and asthma rates but adds a surprising twist: those who encounter such substances before their first birthdays seem to benefit rather than suffer from them. Importantly, the protective effects of both allergen and bacterial exposure were not seen if a child’s first encounter with these substances occurred after age one, the research found.
Wireless Radiation Linked to Risks to Brain Development
An international group of doctors and scientific experts is joining with non-profit organizations today to urge pregnant women to limit their exposure to wireless radiation from cellphones and other devices by taking simple steps to protect themselves and their unborn children. The national public awareness campaign, called the BabySafe Project, is being coordinated by Grassroots Environmental Education and Environmental Health Trust, and is based on independent scientific research linking exposure to wireless radiation from cellphones during pregnancy to neurological and behavioral problems in offspring that resemble Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.
Placenta is Key to Why Female Babies Survive More Often
Sexual inequality between boys and girls starts as early as in the mother’s womb – but how and why this occurs could be a key to preventing higher rates of preterm birth, stillbirth and neonatal death among boys.
A team from the Univ. of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute has been studying the underlying genetic and developmental reasons why male babies generally have worse outcomes than females, with significantly increased rates of pregnancy complications and poor health outcomes for males.
Music can be soothing or stirring, it can make us dance or make us sad. Blood pressure, heartbeat, respiration and even body temperature – music affects the body in a variety of ways. It triggers especially powerful physical reactions in pregnant women. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have discovered that pregnant women compared to their non-pregnant counterparts rate music as more intensely pleasant and unpleasant, and found that listening to music while pregnant was associated with greater changes in blood pressure. Music appears to have an especially strong influence on pregnant women, a fact that may relate to a prenatal conditioning of the fetus to music.
In a study in mice, Harvard Univ.’s Catherine Dulac has pinpointed galanin neurons in the brain’s medial preoptic area (MPOA), that appear to regulate parental behavior. If similar neurons are at work in humans, it could offer clues to the treatment of conditions like post-partum depression. The study is described in Nature.
"If you look across different animal species, there are some species in which the father contributes to caring for the young – sometimes the work is divided equally, sometimes the father does most of the work – and there are species in which the father does nothing," Dulac says. "The essential question is where is that variability coming from? We may be tempted to say that the mom has the neurons required to engage in parental behavior, and dads don’t – this paper shows that’s wrong."