Category Archives: Pregnancy

Recessions Can Lead to Lower Birth Rates in Some Women

birth ratesA large study by researchers at Princeton University has found that women who are in their early 20s during a recession are less likely to have children, even after the economy improves. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The researchers examined birth records and census data to track the reproductive histories of the 18 million women born in the United States from 1961 to 1970, up to the age of 40. They looked at the times when babies were conceived and unemployment rates at those times.

They were looking for evidence that women who did not have children during recessions made up for it later and wound up having the same number of children that they would have had if the recession had not occurred. Instead, they found that women who were 20 to 24 years old during a recession sometimes never had children.

The “Great Recession” is believed to be related to a five-year decline in the number of babies born in the United States starting in 2007. The birth rate increased slightly in 2013.

The researchers project that for women who were in their early 20s when the Great Recession started in 2008, about 151,000 will not have any children by the age of 40, if ever. That could mean 427,000 fewer children will be born in the next two decades.

The effects of that change on society would be relatively small. There are 9 million American women in the 20-24 age group, and about 4 million babies are born in this country every year.

Other studies have found that women have fewer babies in times of higher unemployment. During a recession, many couples feel that they cannot afford to add to their families.

The study’s authors believe women who are in their early 20s during a recession may be discouraged from having children after the economy improves because of other considerations, such as age or a career. Other researchers have discovered that men who take a first job during a recession often have lower earnings for the rest of their lives. That could be another contributing factor.

The researchers did not find an effect on long-term childbearing rates for women in other age groups.

Infants Affected by Mother’s Postpartum Depression

postpartum depressionEven in a progressive country like the United States, postpartum depression carries a stigma – a mother doesn’t care and isn’t vigilant with her child and instead displays signs of mental weakness. But assumptions and distrust of mental health aside, postpartum depression occurs through all income strata, and not only does it influence a parent’s early bonding with a child, it also affect’s a child’s health as well, especially in low-income areas.

A Voice of America piece details the struggles of Ghanaian women with postpartum depression, which, as the article notes, is not identical to the “baby blues.” Because the parent is less able to take care of herself, the child ends up suffering in the process. The parent-child bond, however, isn’t the only negatively-impacted factor; instead, possible neglect spreads to a baby’s heath, resulting in growth and disease concerns. Beyond not taking care of herself and the child, a mother’s symptoms may be more extreme, such as suicidal thoughts in some cases.

As points out, multiple factors point to a mother’s propensity for developing postpartum depression. These include having a child young (under 20 years of age); having a family history of mental illness; experiencing depression or other mood disorders in the past; going through stressful events; and hormonal changes resulting from pregnancy or a thyroid condition. The symptoms for the condition are many and can be read in detail here.

Putting aside the stigma, mothers are advised to seek treatment for the condition. Voices of America points out that counseling and psychiatric services are few in Ghana; however, the United States and other western nations have a greater pool of resources in this regards. Possible options, depending upon insurance, may include counseling or therapy, support groups, or medication.

Children Begin to Understand Language While in the Womb

baby sign languageFor many parents, hearing a child say his or her first word may take a year; during that time, adults endure many sounds that may or may not be words and attempt to communicate with a child. Nevertheless, a recent study shows that, while babies may not yet be able to utter words, they may start to understand adults, particularly the mother, while still in utero.

Although there’s no specific point when a fetus can begin to decipher language and voices (30 weeks is one estimate, according to a Gizmodo article), it has been found that babies just a few hours out of the womb can differentiate between the mother’s and less familiar voices.

But, even if a child can identify a mother’s voice, communicating before actual speech develops is a challenge for parents and guardians. One solution has been baby sign language.

Similar to but differing from American Sign Language, the series of hand symbols for parents to use around babies and toddlers is said to reduce tantrums and frustration and improve communication and the bond between parent and child. As with standard speech, the child may not be responsive at first but, upon introduction at roughly 6 months, will begin to pick up on it and eventually use it to communicate his or her needs. For parents, the benefits include – outside of experiencing fewer tantrums – less guessing a child’s wants and needs.

Other benefits of baby sign language include sooner development of hand-eye coordination, verbal skills, and motor skills. Parents are advised to wait until a child can hold his or her gaze for a few seconds and to start using the gestures in conjunction with words for three to five signs. Once a child appears to catch on, adding more gestures and words is recommended.

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More Premature Babies Could Lead to Greater Disability Rates Later

Premature infant CPAP

Medical and scientific advances have led to increased infant survival, particularly in the Western world. But, as Reuters pointed out in a recent article, greater survival of premature babies means higher disability rates later on. Will nations, particularly the U.S. and U.K., have enough resources to support such a population?

Premature birth frequently leads to severe health complications, and with increasing survival of children born at and before 27 weeks, the British Medical Journal reported, the need for disability services could be greater in the future. Particularly, children born at this stage are at a larger risk for learning disabilities, lung problems, and cerebral palsy.

One study, of babies born between 22 and 26 weeks in 2006 and of those born between 22 and 25 weeks in 1995, showed that 44 percent of premature births were admitted to intensive care. Survival increased by 13 percent between the groups, except for children born before 24 weeks.

A second study produced similar results. The health of the children born in 2006 was observed three years later and compared with those born in 1995. For the children born in 2006, 11 percent more survived without disabilities. Nevertheless, children from this group were still found to have disabilities, particularly those who were born earlier.

As Reuters points out, premature births are increasing across Europe, with the U.K., the location of both studies, having a particularly high amount. The United States’ premature birth rate is on par with the U.K.’s. Nevertheless, all countries on both sides of the ocean, based on the results from these studies, should consider investing in better disability services for children and adults, especially if survival rates and correlating conditions continue to increase.

What’s your take on the Reuters piece? Is it a strong case for better social services and care?

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Will More Babies Save the Economy? Don’t Count on It

English: The number of births per thousand peo...

Unless you have been living under a rock, you likely know that, over the past few weeks, writer Ross Douthat ignited an internet firestorm with an editorial. Few pieces are so incendiary, with Douthat’s message perturbing (to say the least) woman bloggers all over: allowing women to dictate their reproductive choices has resulted in a lower U.S. birth rate. If this sentiment wasn’t awful enough, Douthat went onto describe it as “decadent,” claiming women’s choices have lessened the workforce and future caretakers.

Liberal-leaning political website tore apart Douthat’s argument with another editorial. In its retort, cites the writer’s preference of conservative policies. More births, particularly with quality education and social support missing, creates a cycle of low-wage parents giving birth to children who forego education to lower-wage jobs and increased incarceration. Instead, investing in existing children has a greater chance of creating an innovative, ready-to-spend workforce.

Appearances aside, Douthat’s article did not materialize as a random rant. Instead, births have been declining for the past four years, reaching 1920s levels, according to the Pew Research Center, this past year. Although births have declined across all groups, except for those considered generally more financially stable, births from foreign-born women who emigrated to the United States have been particularly low (a 14-percent drop compared to six percent less on average).

A decline, as well, is not a random occurrence. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that lower birth rates correlate with a declining economy. As the drop began in 2007, and continued through this year, this theory is not far off the mark. Bloomberg supports its argument by mentioning that areas of the United States negatively economically affected have lower birth rates on average.

Will more babies likely improve the economy? Likely not. It seems to be that improving the economy may raise the birth rate.

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Stress, Drinking in Pregnancy Affect Child’s Later Development

Stress alcohol in pregnancyResults from two studies over the past week essentially put the microscope on pregnant women’s behavior. First, a University of Warwick study found that mothers who stress during pregnancy have children who are more likely to be bullied later on. Then, a University of Oxford assessment found that even light drinking in pregnancy could alter a child’s IQ eight years down the line. Both of these studies add to the findings regarding childhood obesity from earlier this year.

The University of Warwick studied 8,829 children, observing a mother’s stress level and the tendency of a child to be bullied later on. Exposure to stress, essentially, affects how such children react emotionally; those who show stress-related reactions, such as crying or freaking out, have a greater chance of becoming targets.

About the results, Professor Dieter Wolke, professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School, stated: “When we are exposed to stress, large quantities of neurohormones are released into the blood stream and in a pregnant woman this can change the developing fetus’ own stress response system.”

Another study, examining casual drinking on a child’s development, found that even a few alcoholic beverages per week could lower a child’s IQ. Although high alcohol consumption has notoriously deleterious effects on a child’s development, lower amounts, the study showed, can also be an influence when a mother slowly metabolizes alcohol.

Slower metabolizing, even when a smaller amount of alcohol is consumed, results in greater exposure for the developing fetus. However, this association may simply be causation, with other factors influencing a child’s later intelligence. But, as results show, lower metabolic rates correlate with lower parental IQ, while higher rates are often seen in women who are more educated, older, and richer.

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For Fourth Year, U.S. Sees Birth Rate Decline

US birth rate declineFor some, a headline like this prompts statements like, “There are already 7 billion people on this Earth – why are any more needed?” For others, it embodies the effects of an unstable economy, one that unofficially began to decline in 2007, resulted in a recession a year later, and can still be felt nearly a decade after. But, a recent study, one examining year-to-year birth rates, found that the U.S.’s declined a fourth year in a row, likely correlated with the weak and barely-recovering economy.

However, the drop from 2011 to 2012, just one percent, was not as steep as in years before. The study points out that U.S. birth rates began to increase during the 1990s – overall, with a more stable economy than in the present – and reached a peak in 2007, with 4.3 million babies born. Between 2007 and 2012, on the other hand, the amount dropped down to just 4 million – the lowest since 1998.

Multiple factors, the Reuters piece points out, could have contributed toward this decline:

• A poorer economy delays family planning
• Births from single women declined three percent, although births from married women increased one percent
• Hispanic women, disproportionately affected by the economy, saw birth rates decline six percent
• Black women saw a two-percent decrease, although births rose for Asians and Pacific Islanders
• Teen birth rates, once at a high in the early 1990s, continue to decline overall
• Women in their early 20s also saw a decline, and birth rates for this group are at their lowest since the 1940s
• Rates for women in their early 30s were steady, although rates for women in their late 30s, likely with more financial security, increased.

The study points out, as well, that data for 2012 is not complete, and while birth rates dropped in the past, they spiked back up years later.

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Older Fathers Pass Along More Genetic Mutations to Children

Genetic mutationMothers’ health and pregnancy habit, even down to drinking a cup of coffee, are under consistent scrutiny. But, perhaps, the next individual to “tsk, tsk” might want to turn toward her husband. A study published in the Nature journal this week revealed that men’s genetics are far more important than once thought, particularly in passing down serious conditions like schizophrenia and autism.

219 Icelandic mothers, fathers, and children were examined. The results revealed that, on average, mothers, regardless of age, pass along 15 genetic mutations to their children. Fathers’ amounts, on the other hand, vary as a result of sperm, which constantly multiply. This activity results in a growing amount of genetic imperfections, proliferating over time at a rate of two per year. While a 20-year-old man has 25 mutations, and 40-year-old man imparts 65 mutations to his child.

Kari Stefansson, senior author of the study by DECODE Genetics, stated: “All areas of the human genome were a mutation once upon a time, so all human variety is down to a mutation. But one interesting aspect of this work is it shows us that the classic focus on the age of the mother and the health of the child is not sufficient. The increasing age of the father has a much bigger impact on a child’s health in a general way. Women are off the hook and we men are on it.”

Particularly where autism is concerned, a father’s age increases the likelihood of a diagnosis, but a mother’s health additionally contributes. Having children later in life can lead to Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities, while three U.S. studies, done in April, point to spontaneous mutation, from either the egg or sperm, raising risks of autism. Like the recent results, fathers from this study were four times more likely to pass along this genetic mutation.

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Birth Factors Pointing to Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity birthOver the past decade, childhood obesity has become a growing concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled since 1980, with one-third of children and adolescents overweight or obese. But, what factors have caused this sharp increase? Is it a combination of increased portion sizes, a lack of healthy options, decreased physical activity, or genetically-modified foods? Or, is body size genetic? Although obesity risks may come from multiple sources and a variety of lifestyle changes, two recent studies point to pregnancy and birth as potential influences.

A study recently done in Canada indicates that obese mothers have a greater chance of giving birth to large infants, which are nine pounds or larger. This encompasses women who were already overweight before pregnancy or gained excessive weight during their term, and of this group, 12 to 16 percent were more likely to have larger infants.

Baby size, however, does not appear to be linked with glucose levels – an indicator of gestational diabetes. Larger babies face immediate and long-term health risks, including broken bones in birth and childhood obesity. Mothers of larger babies, as well, have greater occurrences of C-section births.

On the other hand, babies born by C-section were found to have greater childhood obesity risks, regardless of whether the mother was overweight or not. A study published in the BMJ Journal states that children born via C-section, as opposed to a standard birth procedure, are more likely to be obese by age 3. Although the majority of children born through C-section are not obese by this age, the study found, 15.7 percent of the test group was; for standard birth procedures, the childhood obesity rate by age 3 was 7.5 percent.


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Snooki Officially Announces Pregnancy

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi attending a ...

About a week ago, Jersey Shore store Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was reportedly pregnant but remained mum about her condition, until Friday, when she confirmed it to Us Weekly. Now, many in the media, including the reality star’s castmembers, are discussing how she’ll be as a mother and the future of the show.

First off, Snooki’s pregnancy wasn’t even known to her closest castmembers, including newcomer Deena Cortese (who replaced the reportedly-pregnant-but-not Angelina “Jolie” Pivarnick). In speaking on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, Cortese thinks the pint-sized party girl will make a good mother:“I think this has been her dream: getting married and having kids. She’s really happy and I’m happy for her. I’m going to miss my little partner in crime, but I’m happy for her!”

Do you agree? Spilling the news when 15 weeks pregnant, Snooki is also engaged to boyfriend Jionni LaValle. In announcing the news, she told Us: “I don’t care what anybody else thinks. As long as I know I’m ready and he’s ready.”

Long-time castmember Vinny Guadagnino was also shocked to hear the news. In speaking with the Huffington Post, the castmember who once considered law school thinks Snooki will return to the show and the Jersey Shore crew will be as helpful as possible: “We all get into our hardships with each other and petty arguments but this is real life. She is pregnant and we are there for each other…”

On the other hand, pregnancy means Snooki will have to sober up. Rather than resume her role on Shore as a relatable, hilarious drunk, continuing her antics will make her about as reviled as a Teen Mom. Sources, as well, have mentioned that plans to cancel Shore because of Snooki’s pregnancy, but the four-foot-nine celeb and taller BFF J-Woww have been spotted filming their spinoff show in Jersey City.

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