Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the Week Ending May 21, 2017.

Wild orangutans nurse til kindergarten

Orangutans have the longest nursing period of any mammal; they don’t generally wean until they’re six to eight years old! A new analysis of the minerals in their teeth suggests that they only nurse exclusively for about a year; after that, the milk in their diet is supplemented with solid foods. The researchers speculate that they nurse for so long because they may have limited or unpredictable access to other nutrition. Read more here.

This is important for you because when nursing, it is nice to have context – this is why we are called mammals, after all.

Breast milk as probiotic

The microbiome in the baby’s gut gets established as soon as he is born, with bacteria from the mother’s birth canal and skin. Now, new work out of UCLA suggests that as much as thirty percent of the bacterial species in a baby’s gut come from breast milk. Read more here.

This is important for you because this recently elucidated facet of breastmilk highlights that nursing might give your baby still more benefits that haven’t even been discovered yet.

Fathers fight postpartum depression

Research done in Israel monitoring families with a depressed mother for six years after the babies were born suggests that fathers can pick up the slack. Maternal depression was usually associate with “low family cohesion,” but when fathers were sensitive to their children’s needs and engaged them socially this was no longer the case. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you are grappling with depression, other people can help with our health as well as your baby’s.

In Vitro Gametogenesis Achieved in Mice in Japan

Stem cells have immense therapeutic promise because they have the potential to develop into any other kinds of cells. Now, researchers in Japan have reprogrammed stem cells from the skin of mice to become gametes: egg cells and sperm cells. Doing this with human cells would have enormously far reaching societal and ethical implications – from permitting a homosexual couple to both be biological parents of their child to the possibility of unknowingly collecting skin cells from someone and making them a parent without their knowledge. Read more here.

This is important for you because advances in all technologies, but perhaps medical and reproductive technologies most of all, should be thoughtfully considered.

A Brief History of Pregnancy Tests

Pregnancy tests used to be controlled by doctors, not by women who missed their periods. The results took hours or even days, and involved peeing not on a stick but into a mouse, rabbit, or frog. The development of chemical home tests has dramatically altered the experience of procreating. Read more about this fascinating history here.

This is important for you because you didn’t have to inject your urine into a frog to find out you were knocked up.

The most popular article on The Pulse this week was How Having A Tilted Uterus Affects Pregnancy. About one in five women have a uterus that naturally tilts back, instead of forward; usually, it is a total non-issue. Read it here.

This is important for you because it’s cool to remember that we are all built a little differently – even on the inside.

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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