Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

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For the Week Ending September 3, 2017.

Boy or Girl?

Kids in grade school know that girls are girls because they have two X chromosomes, one from each parent, and that boys are boys because they get a Y chromosome from their dads instead of the X. But this was not known until the early twentieth century, when it was demonstrated by Nettie Stevens, a biologist who did not receive credit for her discovery – perhaps because she had two X chromosomes. Read more here.

This is important for you because unfortunately, both boys and girls still need to be reminded that women can be capable scientists.

All in Good Time

A pregnant woman’s body suppresses her own immune system so it doesn’t attack the fetus, but it still has to be able to ward off infections. How the body manages this delicate balance is not completely understood. New work at Stanford has plotted the changes in immunoregulatory molecules over the course of pregnancy in order to elucidate the changes and help predict and prevent pregnancy disorders. Read the press release here.

This is important for you because it is always nice to be reminded of the cool and miraculous aspects of biology in general and pregnancy in particular.

Nursing May Reduce Endometriosis Risk

Endometriosis is the growth of uterine tissue outside of the uterus, and it can be very painful. An analysis of mothers who breastfeed versus those who don’t indicates that those who nurse have reduced rates of endometriosis. The mechanism is unclear, but the finding fits with the idea that breastfeeding is good for mothers as well as children. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you can do it, nursing is good.

Fetal DNA in Maternal Blood

Looking at fetal DNA in maternal blood is a much less invasive way of assaying it than previously used methods. Usually, it is only used to examine those chromosomes whose copy numbers are altered (the fetus gets one extra or one less copy). However, it can also be used to detect rarer chromosomal abnormalities. A recent paper in Science argues that all chromosomes should be examined, rather than those most commonly affected, as a way to predict or explain later negative outcomes in pregnancy. Read the abstract here.

This is important for you because if you opt for this test, make sure you get all the data you can out of it.

The most popular article on The Pulse this week, interestingly, was Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome: A Possible Danger for Identical Twins. The syndrome involves the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the placenta which results in one identical twin receiving more blood than the other, so the first is in effect receiving an intra-uterine blood transfusion from the second. Untreated, it can be dangerous for both twins. 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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