Archive for the ‘News: Parenting and pregnancy’ Category

Cigarette smoke & Meningitis, oxygen deprivation & ADHD and Mercury in vaccines

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The latest news in the world of pregnancy and parenting has revealed a link between second hand smoke, pregnancy and an increased risk of children developing meningococcal disease. A loss of oxygen whilst in the womb or during birth has been shown to greatly increase the risk of ADHD and may help doctors and researchers identify and treat children who are at greater risk of developing ADHD. A debate has been fueled by a United Nations proposal to ban a Mercury containing vaccine preservative called thimerosal.

Avoid second hand smoke at all costs

A study published in the BMC Journal of Public health found that pregnant women and new parents should avoid being exposed to second hand smoke as it doubles their baby or child’s risk of developing meningococcal disease, which has a mortality rate of 5% and sadly leaves many patients with some form of disability. Children born to mothers that smoke during pregnancy are 3 times more likely to develop the disease than children born into non-smoking households. Further research is required to determine the mechanism explaining how smoking leads to the development of invasive meningococcal disease however a clear relationship has been identified and second hand smoke should be avoided.

A link between loss of oxygen before or during birth and ADHD

Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente department in Southern California have analysed health records of close to 82,000 children. The results of the study show that children exposed to a loss of oxygen in the womb displayed a 16% greater risk of developing ADHD. In contrast children who had a loss of oxygen during birth displayed a 26% greater risk of developing this disorder. The results do not show a clear cause and effect relationship and further research in this area is required.

A vaccine preservative contains Mercury

The vaccine preservative thimerosal contains Mercury and the United Nations has proposed a ban on its use. There is currently much debate over whether this is a realistic proposal given that many developing countries rely on using multi-dose vials to prevent disease despite this form of vaccine containing thimerosal. More developed countries such as the United States are able to avoid the preservative by using single dose vials however this is not a viable option for developing countries where resources are limited and vaccination rates are already very low. The Mercury used in vaccines is called ethyl mercury which is not to be confused with methyl mercury which is known to effect the development of children’s brains when present in the environment. Consequently mixed opinions surround the toxicity of thimerosal. While it appears to be safe, there is something unsettling about the fact that it must be disposed of as hazardous waste due to its mercury content and it is being injected into children in developing countries?

How we chose a dog for our family

Friday, December 14th, 2012

We recently adopted a new family member of the four legged variety. After doing lots and lots of research on all the different dog breeds available in Australia we finally narrowed our choice down to a small handful of breeds. In order to narrow down the breeds that were most suitable for our family situation we used the following criteria:

  • Must be great with kids including young children and babies
  • Must not be a breed that is known to bark excessively (we live in a quiet neighborhood)
  • Does not require more than a daily walk and a romp in the garden in terms of exercise
  • A small breed that will not knock small children over or eat us out of house and home
  • Short hair- Low maintenance in terms of coat care and not an excessive shedder
  • A great companion that loves to be around people and welcomes all guests into the home

Using this criteria we successfully narrowed our search down to one breed. A breed commonly referred to as the ‘little clowns’ of the dog world, the French Bulldog! After doing our research we felt confident in our decision to start searching for a suitable breeder and we went off to meet some of these delightful personalities in person. Our family loved everything about this breed, their cute faces, the snoring but most importantly their fun loving and comical nature. The perfect dog breed for our family.

After many months of waiting for the right puppy, now we can happily say we have our own French Bulldog and we would like you to meet Fifi the French Bulldog! Adorable, cuddly and charismatic, she is a ball of love and has settled into our family life perfectly.

We’ll keep you updated with photos as she grows!

French bulldog puppy

French Bulldog puppy 8 weeks old

Buying a French bulldog

French bulldogs make great family dogs

French bulldogs are little clowns

French bulldogs love children and make great therapy dogs for the elderly


BPA & pregnancy, IVF increases asthma risk, parenting increases lifespan

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

This weeks scientific publications in the area of pregnancy and parenting show us the tendency for BPA to accumulate in the livers of babies whilst in the womb. New research has shown that children resulting from IVF technologies have an increased risk of asthma and interestingly another study has observed that parents may live longer than childless couples.

BPA and pregnancy

Researchers have observed that babies are subject to high levels of BPA during pregnancy where the chemical builds up in their liver. Unfortunately babies have a reduced capacity to eliminate or clear BPA from their bodies, meaning the risk of it reaching toxic levels becomes very high.

Why is BPA dangerous and where can it be found?

  • BPA can be found in plastic bottles and surprisingly in food and drink cans.
  • Studies have linked BPA to breast and prostate cancer, childhood behavioral issues, poor semen quality, miscarriage and cardiovascular disease.

A study published in the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology has measured the levels of BPA in the livers of first and second trimester fetuses. Strong evidence of widespread BPA levels in the livers of these unborn babies was found and some fetuses even displayed a high level of exposure to BPA. The researchers then went on to measure the levels of enzymes responsible for breaking down BPA and found that the fetus does not possess the enzymes required to efficiently break down and clear BPA from their bodies as compared to adults.

How does BPA enter the body?

  • Skin
  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion

The results of this recent study suggest that pregnant women should be avoiding BPA exposure at all costs. An easy way to reduce your exposure to BPA is to discard any plastic drinking bottles you may use and replace them with BPA free bottles. Do not re-use your flimsy water bottles that you buy from the shops. Look for containers and bottles that clearly state BPA free on their packaging.

Thankfully, our new range of fabric wall stickers are BPA & PVC free. Avoid PVC items! This study is evidence to show the benefit of avoiding vinyl wall stickers particularly in newborn and children’s rooms. They may be cheaper but think of the health implications for your little one.

IVF and the increased risk of asthma

Researchers are warning parents not to be alarmed by the results of a recent study which have shown that children born from IVF technologies may be at an increased risk of developing asthma. A study published in the journal of Human Repoduction which analysed data on 19,000 children showed that children born from IVF technologies were four times as likely to be taking asthma medications than children who were conceived naturally. Children born from mothers taking ovulation inducing drugs were twice as likely to be taking asthma medications. Although there appears to be some relationship between IVF reproduction technologies and asthma, more research is required to make any definitive conclusions.

Adoption increases lifespan of childless couples

A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community has claimed that men and particularly women who become parents have a lower rate of death and psychiatric illness than childless couples. Doctors have attributed the reduced rate of death and mental illness to the positive effect becoming parents has on a couple and say that the effect is the same for biological and adoptive parents.

Pregnancy & Parenting News: maternal diet, traffic pollution and breastfeeding support programs

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Current news in the world of pregnancy and parenting has revealed that proper nutrition during the maternal and early childhood stages of development may protect children from obesity later in life. A study has revealed that children living in an area which has a high level of traffic pollution are three times more likely to develop autism when compared to infants exposed to low levels of pollution. A study conducted in Pakistan has revealed that mothers cease breastfeeding early in order to return to employment, this is a concern as this country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Furthermore breastfeeding has been proven to be beneficial in providing improved health outcomes for infants and may be critical in reducing infant deaths in countries such as Pakistan.

The importance of diet during pregnancy

Birth weight has been shown to influence the health outcomes of children later in life and can be associated with the diet consumed during pregnancy. Low birth weights consistent with nutritional deficiencies in energy, iron and micro-nutrients can be associated with metabolic imbalances and may ultimately lead to obesity later in life. Studies have also shown that a high protein intake such as through feeding formula early in life may also lead to obesity. Breastfeeding reduces the incidence of obesity later in a childs’ life by 20% (Yang and Huffman, 2012). This is significant in a world where obesity is becoming an epidemic.

A link between autism and air quality

A study conducted by the University of Southern Carolina and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has compared 279 autistic children with 245 unaffected children. The results of this study have shown that children living in areas of high traffic pollution were three times more likely to be autistic than children who were exposed to low levels of this pollution. The results of this study are significant given that we live in a world which is becoming more and more urbanised and with this comes reduced air quality and increased transports. The results of this study are supported by earlier research carried out in this area.

Breastfeeding promotes infant health however mothers need support programs to make the transition

Many studies have shown the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, of particular note is the improvement in immunity and ultimately a reduction in infant mortality. A study conducted in Pakistan has shown that many women find it difficult to continue breastfeeding when they return to employment resulting in a reduction in the prevalence of breastfeeding which is concerning in a country which has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Women who were able to continue breastfeeding whilst being employed said it was important to receive social and workplace support, information and to be able to communicate openly about their needs. The study unveiled a need to develop programs and systems to encourage and support mothers to continue breastfeeding when they returned to work.


News: Iron & omega-3s, Malaria vaccine, exercise and limiting screen time

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

The latest news surrounding pregnancy and parenting for this week is disappointing in terms of a failed vaccine for Malaria but on a more positive note exercise appears to be beneficial for a child’s cognition. In the area of children’s supplements some new research suggests that the timing of administration is critical to having a positive effect on a child’s development. We’re all concerned about the effects of our children watching copious amounts of television and a study has effectively reduced the number of meals children consume in front of the TV by implementing a new program.

Malaria vaccine found to be ineffective

Malaria kills 650,000 people every year, mainly young children and pregnant women. Drug company Glaxo first started developing a vaccine to prevent Malaria in 1987 and has spent $300 million with disappointing results thus far. The difficulty in creating a Malaria vaccine appears to be due to the challenge of targeting 5 different parasites which all cause the disease. No one has been able to develop a vaccine to prevent a disease caused by a parasite, hence the frustrating delay in making one available. On a positive note the current vaccine protected 30% of the 6500 infants in the study from Malaria but this is not significant enough to support the widespread use of the vaccine which according to the World Health Organisation should protect at least 50% of the population.

Iron and omega-3 supplementation in children

The results of a recent clinical trial have shown that iron supplementation for 8 months improved memory and learning in children aged 6 to 11 years old. Similarly children with diagnosed anemia showed even greater improvement. In contrast omega-3 supplementation did not improve brain function and in fact children receiving omega-3 supplements showed a decline in learning and memory. Research in the area of iron deficiency is important because the World Health Organisation estimates that it affects 2 billion people worldwide, making it the most common nutritional deficiency. Studies on rats have shown that there appears to be some benefit in supplementing both omega-3s and iron together. This study was conducted in South Africa and the children were impoverished and some were suffering from low iron, therefore the results cannot be generalised to all children worldwide. Iron and omega-3s are essential in brain development and more research is needed to identify whether there is an ideal age for supplementation as brain development may be irreversibly effected if supplementation is delayed.

 Reducing kids screen time

A paediatrician from the Hospital of Sick Children in Toronto believes there is a relationship between obesity and eating in front of a screen whether it be a computer or television. Screen time has also been linked to kids with poor language development and an increased incidence of cigarette smoking as teenagers. A program was developed to inform parents of the damaging effects of screen time on a child’s development and instructed parents to remove screens from their child’s room and not to allow the eating of meals in front of a screen. The study found that there was no difference in the amount of time spent infront of a screen by children who underwent the program and the control group however the children that participated in the program ate less meals in front of the televsion than those who did not go through the program.

Exercise may improve ADHD outcomes

Children with ADHD struggle to ignore distractions and focus on a single task. Pontifex and his colleagues recruited children with ADHD and without. They gave them a test which assessed their ability to focus, this was administered following 20 minutes of treadmill exercise and 20 minutes of reading on separate occassions. The results showed that both children with ADHD and those without demonstrated improved test results following exercise. Further research needs to look into the mechanism through which this improved cognitive ability comes about and whether regular exercise could improve children’s ability to focus, ultimately leading to better school outcomes. More research is required before exercise replaces ADHD medications however this research suggests that all children may benefit from regular exercise through an improved ability to focus on a task.

Breastfeeding and diet

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Many mums are tempted to go on a strict diet following the birth of their baby. If you’re going to breastfeed, it’s important to consume a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. This will be a demanding time for your body, it will be drained of nutrients and energy and you must replenish these reserves to ensure a quality supply of milk and to maintain your overall health and wellbeing.

Breastfeeding will drain your body of fluids so it is important that you drink lots of water, up to 2L per day is recommended.

Important nutrients include:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamins

Some women find they naturally lose weight whilst breastfeeding and it’s important to keep in mind that this natural and gradual reduction in fat should be the goal rather than rapid weight loss.

You may find yourself snacking more frequently whilst breastfeeding and this is normal as your body is refuelling the energy lost from breastfeeding. Plan for this hunger and you will be able to avoid being tempted into eating chocolate and other unhealthy options. Here is a list of beneficial snacks for breastfeeding mums:

  • Toast and sandwiches- use avocado as your spread to replace margarine and butter
  • Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and breakfast cereals
  • Seeds- chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Nuts- almonds, walnuts, macadamia
  • Celery and carrot sticks- whip up a yummy dip using avocado, tomato, red onion and lime juice

Be sure to include these nutrients in your meals:

  • Protein- meats, fish, seeds, dairy, legumes, beans.
  • Four serves of calcium per day (very important or it will be drained from your bones)- dairy products, sardines
  • Iron- think red berries (Vitamin C), meats, dried fruit, nuts, spinach (leafy greens- these also provide folate and Vitamin A)

Certain medications and other compounds such as caffeine will pass into breast milk and therefore should be avoided. Ask your pharmacist about medications which are appropriate for breastfeeding. Limit tea and coffee to 2 drinks per day to avoid feeding your baby large amounts of caffeine. Avoid fish with high levels of mercury such as flake and swordfish.

Breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial to the development and wellbeing of babies and therefore you have the support of many helpful resources at your fingertips. Here are a few that you may find helpful in your journey:

News: fertility, early treatment and anxiety

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

What topics have made the news this week in the areas of parenting and medicine?

Could predicting your decline in fertility be as easy as asking your mum? What are the benefits of early treatment including parental training for children with autism? Is there a connection between parental anxiety and childrens social outcomes?

Fertility and genetics

The Copenhagen university hospital has undertook research to determine whether there is a link between the age that a mother goes through menopause and when her daughter will go through menopause. The research showed that daughters of women who went through menopause early, had a faster rate of egg decline represented by lower levels of AMH and AFC hormones. The results of the study suggest that a woman’s fertility is somewhat inherited from her mother.

Early intervention helps children with autism

The Yale School of Medicine has found improvements in the communication of children with autism when treatment is initiated early in their development. Treatment included parental training and is known as pivotal response treatment. Previously diagnosis of autism occured when the child was 3-5 years of age however researcher Volkmar is now diagnosing children as young as one year of age. The study employed the use of magnetic resonance imaging or MRI and the results showed that children who underwent early treatment demonstrated a higher level of activity in the region of the brain associated with social behaviours and these children also showed improvements in talking to people.

Parental behaviours and anxiety in children

Reseachers from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center have found that children who’s parents suffer from social anxiety disorder are more at risk of developing anxiety than children who’s parents suffer from other forms of anxiety. Put simply if you suffer from social anxiety, the risk that your child will suffer from some form of anxiety is increased. Researchers noted that parents who had been diagnosed with social anxiety were more critical of their children and showed less warmth. Apparently children do not inherit anxiety however they do have a propensity toward developing it if they are exposed to environmental factors. Research in this area is important because anxiety can lead to depression, substance abuse and poor performance at school.