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MONDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) — Although many women choose to breast-feed because of the numerous health benefits it offers their offspring, new research suggests that breast-feeding may also help the health of the mothers’ hearts later in life.
In a study of nearly 300 women, researchers found that those who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.
“Women who had not breast-fed were more likely to develop changes that might lead to symptomatic heart disease,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Eleanor Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care.
Results of the study will be published in the January issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
H1N1 Vaccinations are available for pregnant women. Please check with newspapers, TV, and the Health Department for vaccination locations and more information.
There is a lengthy laundry list of things pregnant women are told to shy away from. Various foods and substances are written off as being dangerous or adverse to pregnancy, with pregnant women staying as far away from them as possible.
But one thing that was originally deemed harmful to pregnant women, flu vaccines, has now been listed as something every pregnant women should have. With complications rising from the H1N1 influenza pandemic, pregnant women are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they can.
The following article outlines how women have moved up to be a top priority for flu vaccines:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put pregnant women at the top of the priority list for the vaccine, and have recommended that pregnant women start antiviral medications as soon as possible after exposure to the virus and after the onset of flu symptoms.
But if experience is any indication, even these forceful recommendations may not be enough to overcome reluctance among pregnant women and those who care for them. Even though the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women in particular, in one study only 15 percent received the vaccine — a rate far lower than any adult group for whom it is recommended.
And despite recommendations that antiviral drugs be started as soon as flu symptoms appear, many pregnant women in the Lancet study were not treated soon enough. Delays ranged from 6 to 15 days from the time that symptoms started, and 2 to 14 days from the time the women were seen by a doctor. Not one of the six pregnant and relatively healthy women who died received medication within 48 hours of the onset of her illness.
This is a sadly familiar pattern. After the thalidomide disaster of 1960s, and the very real concerns it raised about the impact of drugs on fetal development, many ended up viewing the use of any medicine by pregnant women as anathema. As a result, doctors and women alike often eschew or discontinue medications for serious illnesses, even when the harms of untreated disease, for women and the children they bear, are worse than any risks of medication.
Poorly treated asthma during pregnancy, for example, is associated with higher rates of pregnancy complications for women, as well as growth problems in the fetus and premature delivery. By contrast, women whose asthma is controlled with medication do as well as women without asthma, and so do their babies. Untreated diabetes early in pregnancy elevates the chances of severe birth defects to as high as 1 in 4.
And yet even when the evidence is clear, pregnant women find it hard to fight against the “don’t take it, don’t use it, don’t do it” mentality, which focuses our minds and emotions only on the risks of taking a drug. Obscured from view are the risks of the disease itself.
Overcoming this mindset will take work on several fronts. Every effort needs to be made to alert pregnant women and clinicians about the special risks of H1N1 in pregnancy. Educational efforts need to be honest about the reasoning behind these important recommendations, including both the limits of what we know and the reasons that concern for pregnant women is now so great.
But the key to success, now and in the future, will be the conduct of research that is specific to the needs of pregnant women. Concerns about the ethics of research involving these women mean that we know far less about how to treat or prevent disease during pregnancy than for other adults and children. The urgent threat of H1N1 flu has brought into sharp relief the fact that pregnant women can and should be protected through research, not from it.
Studies enrolling pregnant women in trials of vaccines for swine flu, financed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are now under way at six major medical centers. Researchers are also studying ways to guide the use of antiviral drugs to suit pregnant women’s changed metabolisms. Experts suggest that studying blood samples from as few as two dozen women is all we need to determine whether the standard adult dose of antivirals is effective for treatment or protection during pregnancy.
If there was ever a time to rewrite the playbook on how to think about drugs, vaccines and pregnancy, this is it. The lives of women and babies depend on it.
Anne Drapkin Lyerly is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke, Margaret Olivia Little is director of the Georgetown Kennedy Institute for Ethics, and Ruth R. Faden is director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
Good nutrition during pregnancy improves your chances of having a healthy baby. It may even reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions in your child, long after he has grown.
Eating for Two During Pregnancy
Whether you waited months for a positive pregnancy test or this pregnancy took you by surprise, you’ll probably need to make over your eating habits. Many women begin pregnancy with shortfalls of nutrients central to a healthy pregnancy, including iron, calcium, and brain-building fats.
“Never in a woman’s life is nutrition so important as when she’s pregnant and nursing,” says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy.
Indeed. Research suggests that, along with other healthy habits during pregnancy, eating right influences a child’s well-being at birth, and beyond.
“We’ve discovered that a child isn’t only what she eats, but also what you ate during pregnancy, and possibly what your mother ate,” says Randy Jirtle, PhD, a researcher in the field of epigenetics. Increasingly, research shows that mom’s lifestyle affects her baby’s chances for conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Focus on Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Getting adequate folic acid is one way of helping your child become the healthiest person possible. During the first month of pregnancy, folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Be sure to take a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms folic acid until you replace it with a prescription prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement. Choose grains fortified with folic acid, including breakfast cereals, breads, rice, and pasta, every day too.
Multivitamins Have Multiple Effects During Pregnancy
Multivitamins do more than supply the necessary folic acid for growing babies, according to a population study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh.
Researchers there found that women in early pregnancy who took a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin regularly reduced their risk of preeclampsia by 45%. Preeclampsia, which causes elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine, is a leading cause of premature delivery and fetal death.
Despite the benefits, you may find swallowing pregnancy supplements difficult. The pills are often large, and they contain high doses of iron that can irritate your stomach and cause constipation.
“If you find yourself having trouble taking prenatal vitamins or you’re having unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor about other, safe options,” advises Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.
And always tell your doctor or midwife about all the dietary supplements you take, including herbal remedies.
Make Calories Count During Pregnancy
During the first few months of pregnancy, you may not notice a big weight gain.
Some women may even lose weight during the first trimester of pregnancy because of queasiness that prevents them from eating and drinking normally. Tell your doctor if you experience persistent vomiting or nausea – you may become dehydrated. So-called morning sickness can last for the entire pregnancy, but it typically starts to dissipate after about 13 weeks.
Article Courtesy of WebMD
By Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD
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