Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

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For the week ending March 19, 2017.

Have babies, live longer

To the many boons that raising children can bring, add another year or two of life expectancy! A recent study that tracked 1.4 million people in Sweden born between 1911 and 1925 found that people with at least one child tended to live longer than those who didn’t. The researchers speculate that the support and companionship of adult children help parents as we age. Read more here.

This is important for you because, if you ever feel nervous about having this baby, here is an upside to look forward to!

Long distance medical school

Liberia has only one doctor for every 70,000 or so people – the worst ratio in the world. The Ebola crisis only exacerbated this paucity of medical personnel, as many doctors were busy dealing with it, succumbed, or fled the country, and doctors from abroad are still reluctant to come. Expanding the training of senior midwives to perform Caesarean sections could help alleviate the situation, but there are too few obstetricians in the country to provide the training. An innovative program has allowed them to be trained remotely, online. The same model may help other areas of the world that lack physicians, like Zika infested areas in South America or war torn regions like Syria. Read more here.

This is important for you because – once again – when things feel daunting, try to remember how fortunate you are to be having this baby in this time and place.

 “No jab, no play”

The Australian Prime Minister has just declared that unvaccinated children cannot attend preschool. This is an attempt to raise vaccination rates in Australia from about 93%, where they now hover, to 95%, the level required to achieve maximal herd immunity. Vaccination is safe and the best way to keep the entire population healthy and protected from pathogens that killed countless people, especially babies and children, before vaccines were developed and widely disseminated. But some people may view the government mandate as a violation of civil liberties. Read more here.

This is important for you because it provides another reminder of how important vaccinations are.

When the sperm meets the egg…

Researchers have finally – finally! – figured out how the sperm binds to the egg. Sperm make a protein that its discoverers decided to name Izumo, after one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the god of marriage. The scientists who identified Izumo’s binding partner on the surface of the egg called it Juno, after the Roman goddess of fertility and marriage. But this protein binding is only the first step; researchers are still working on how the membranes of the egg and sperm fuse after Izumo and Juno meet. Read more here.

This is important for you because it’s cool to remember that important discoveries are still being made, even about fundamental phenomena that we think are well understood. And it’s also cool to think that all babies come from the binding of a protein named for the Shinto god of marriage to one named for the Roman goddess of marriage.

Climate change is bad for you

The party line is that we are destroying the planet – but the planet, albeit in an altered form, will likely outlast humanity. Doctors have outlined three ways that climate change can adversely affect health: poor air quality and freakish weather events (i.e. a mid-March blizzard) can directly kill people; a warming world can extend the habitable zones of pathogens like Zika and Lyme disease; and the stress of watching the negative consequences of our actions on the Earth and its atmosphere can impair mental health. Since they are immunocompromised, pregnant women are part of the population that are hypersensitive to these effects. Read more here.

This is important for you because your actions today can affect your health as well as your baby’s; try to be environmentally conscious!

The most popular article on The Pulse this week was All You Need to Know About Insomnia During Pregnancy. Although it is undoubtedly unjust that it is so difficult to sleep before the baby arrives, rest assured (ha, ha) that your fatigue will not harm your baby. Read the full piece 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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